BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Taylor and TVWorks Ltd - 2010-148

Members
  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • Leigh Pearson
Dated
Complainant
  • Lincoln Taylor
Number
2010-148
Programme
Target
Broadcaster
TVWorks Ltd
Channel/Station
TV3 # 3

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Target – hidden camera trial of appliance repairers – presenter stated that a home owner is not allowed to connect a plug to an electrical appliance without approval from an electrical inspector – allegedly inaccurate

Findings
Standard 5 (accuracy) – presenter’s statement did not accurately reflect relevant legislation and regulations – broadcaster made reasonable efforts to ensure accuracy – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1]   In an episode of Target, broadcast on TV3 at 7.30pm on 7 September 2010, a hidden camera trial was conducted which evaluated three appliance repairers who were called in to fix an electrical cord connected to a fridge. At the beginning of the segment, the Target presenter said:

To fix an appliance, you don’t need to be an electrician, but you do need to be a registered electrical service technician with a current practising licence. Unlike some jobs, a home owner can’t do this. They can fix the plug, but can’t connect the appliance until an electrical inspector has approved it, otherwise the job could be unsafe and jeopardise your insurance.

Complaint

[2]   Lincoln Taylor made a formal complaint to TVWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the presenter’s comments about who is allowed to connect an electrical plug to an appliance were inaccurate, because they were inconsistent with the New Zealand Electrical Code of Practice for Repair and Maintenance of Domestic Electrical Appliances by the Owners of the Appliance (the New Zealand Electrical Code of Practice). He supplied a copy of this and the Electricity Regulations 1997.

Standards

[3]   Standard 5 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice is relevant to the determination of this complaint. It provides:

Standard 5 Accuracy

Broadcasters should make reasonable efforts to ensure that news, current affairs and factual programming:

  • is accurate in relation to all material points of fact; and/or
  • does not mislead.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[4]   TVWorks provided comments from Target’s producers. It said that their experts maintained that regulation 47 of the Electricity Regulations 1997 supported their view, which was that:

To replace a plug top to any appliance is classified as prescribed electrical work. To do this work you need to be a registered service technician... with a current practising licence (that’s if you want to receive any money for reward), or a registered electrician with a current practising licence.

A home owner can replace his appliance own plug top but cannot liven the appliance [until] a competent person has inspected the plug top (must be an electrical inspector).

After the plug top has been replaced the appliance needs to be tested...

[5]   TVWorks noted that Mr Taylor had argued that this was inconsistent with the New Zealand Electrical Code of Practice, but had not “provided any specific information as to how” it was inconsistent. The broadcaster said, “We therefore have no information that disputes the opinions of the qualified experts utilised by the Target producers,” and it declined to uphold the Standard 5 complaint.

Referral to the Authority

[6]   Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Mr Taylor referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

[7]   Mr Taylor disagreed that replacing a plug was “prescribed electrical work”. He contended that the documents he provided clearly identified this sort of work as “non-prescribed electrical work”, and supplied the relevant sections of the New Zealand Electrical Code of Practice. He therefore maintained that the programme was inaccurate because “a ‘home owner’ can do this work and can connect the appliance without having an ‘electrical inspector’ approving it”.

[8]   Mr Taylor argued that the regulation referred to by the producers (Regulation 47) was not applicable, “as this section clearly does not cover the scope of the work”. He said that “the work in question is on an appliance and so is covered by regulation 48, and replacing the plug is allowed by regulation 17(2)(n), by the homeowner, without having an ‘electrical inspector’ involved”. He argued that TVWorks had deliberately misrepresented the regulations.

Further Information from the Complainant

[9]   Mr Taylor made an inquiry to the energy safety division of the Ministry of Economic Development (MED). A senior technical officer sent a response to the Authority, stating that, although Mr Taylor was quoting from the old 1997 regulations, the Electricity (Safety) Regulations 2010 indicated that “[the work shown in Target] is not prescribed work and therefore it can be done by the homeowner or any person provided that it is done without payment or reward”. The technical officer said that he had contacted TVWorks so that he could discuss the regulatory requirements with Target’s expert.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[10]   TVWorks noted that the regulation referred to by the technical officer pertained to “low voltage fittings”, while the programme was concerned with a refrigerator. It emphasised that the presenter had stated, in relation to a fridge, that “[a homeowner] can fix the plug but can’t connect the appliance until an electrical inspector has approved it”. Target’s expert noted the following provision of the Electricity Act 1992:

s 80 Exemption for maintenance of domestic appliances

(1)  The owner of any electrical appliance may do any prescribed electrical work, or assist in doing any prescribed electrical work, in relation to that appliance if:

...

(g) the work is, before connection to a power supply, tested and certified, in accordance with regulations, by a registered person who holds a current practising licence issued under this Act that authorises that person to test and certify prescribed electrical work.

[11]   TVWorks therefore maintained that the programme was accurate because “it related to the fitting of a plug to a mains appliance not a low voltage appliance (as referred to in the MED letter)”.

Complainant’s Final Comment

[12]   Mr Taylor argued that the technical officer was the leading expert in this field, and said that “he is well aware that the work in question is fitting an electrical power plug to a domestic refrigerator”. He maintained that fitting a plug to a domestic household fridge was low voltage work, and so TVWorks was incorrect in this respect. He said that Target’s expert had referred to the regulation that allowed for maintenance of domestic appliances, which did not apply to the work done in Target because it was “done by exemption in Schedule 1 as clearly referred to by [MED’s technical officer]”. Mr Taylor reiterated his view that TVWorks had misinterpreted the regulations, and that the programme was inaccurate.

Authority’s Request for Further Information

[13]   The Authority contacted MED and asked the senior technical officer in the energy safety division whether he believed the statement in the programme was accurate.

[14]   The officer responded that Regulation 64 of the Electricity Safety Regulations 2010 “allows a home owner to carry out certain work in accordance with NZECP 51. The work of fitting a plug is included and does not require an electrical inspector to test the work.” He said that section 80(g) cited by the broadcaster “refers to the connection of a fixed wired appliance and not a plug-in appliance”.

Authority’s Request for Further Information from the Broadcaster

[15]   The Authority asked TVWorks what was the source of the information given in the programme (see paragraph [1]), and what efforts were made to ensure this information was accurate.

[16]   TVWorks responded that the source of the information was Target’s expert, who had ten years experience in lecturing in electrical engineering at tertiary institutions both in New Zealand and overseas. It said that in terms of checking the information, the expert cited section (g) (see [10] above) as he was of the belief that changing the plug on an appliance was prescribed electrical work.

Authority's Determination

[17]   The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

[18]   Standard 5 states that broadcasters should make reasonable efforts to ensure that news, current affairs and factual programming is accurate in relation to all material points of fact, and does not mislead. The present complaint centres on the following statement by Target’s presenter:

To fix an appliance, you don’t need to be an electrician, but you do need to be a registered electrical service technician with a current practising licence. Unlike some jobs, a home owner can’t do this. They can fix the plug, but can’t connect the appliance until an electrical inspector has approved it, otherwise the job could be unsafe and jeopardise your insurance.

[19]   In our view, reasonable viewers would have understood the presenter’s statement to mean that it would be contrary to the Electricity (Safety) Regulations 2010 to carry out the work shown in the programme. However, Clause 2 in Schedule 1 of the regulations states:

The following work is not prescribed electrical work:

Low voltage fittings

(a) work done on low voltage fittings, but only if the work is done in accordance with ECP 51, and without payment or reward, and the work consists of—

(i) replacing a fuse link with a fuse link or plug-in miniature circuit breaker of an appropriate rating; or

(ii) affixing a plug, adaptor, cord extension socket, or appliance connector of an appropriate rating to a flexible cord designed for that purpose...

[20]   The officer from MED has confirmed that a refrigerator falls within the category of a “low voltage fitting” and is therefore not prescribed electrical work (see paragraph [14] above). Section 80(1)(g) of the Electricity Act, which was relied upon by the broadcaster, is not applicable.

[21]   Having reference to the regulations outlined above, we find that the presenter’s statement in the programme that a homeowner “can fix the plug, but can’t connect the appliance until an electrical inspector has approved it”, was inaccurate.

[22]   The next step is to consider whether the broadcaster made reasonable efforts to ensure that the programme was accurate. At the outset, we acknowledge that the regulations and statutes relating to electrical work are not clear or simple. Nowhere does it explicitly state that fitting a plug to a fridge is something that a homeowner can do themselves.

[23]   The position of Target has been that it has engaged and relied upon an expert whose advice was correct. We have found that the advice of the expert relied upon was not correct. When a broadcaster seeks to rely upon an expert in support of its position that it has made reasonable efforts to achieve accuracy we would ordinarily expect some particulars of the expert and that expert's qualifications to be given.  Here we received very sparse information about the expert’s experience and qualifications. No further information would be given because of some sort of reliance on a confidentiality agreement. With very considerable reservations we are in the present circumstances willing to accept this information as being adequate to satisfy us that the broadcaster has in fact made reasonable efforts.

[24]   For these reasons, we decline to uphold the Standard 5 complaint.

 

For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
18 March 2011

Appendix

The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:

1                  Lincoln Taylor’s formal complaint – 8 September 2010

2                 Letter from Mr Taylor to the Authority – 11 October 2010

3                 TVWorks’ response to the complaint – 19 October 2010

4                 Mr Taylor’s referral to the Authority – 25 October 2010

5                 Letter from Ministry of Economic Development – 5 November 2010

6                 TVWorks’ response to MED’s letter – 9 November 2010

7                 Mr Taylor’s final comment – 11 November 2010

8                 TVWorks’ responses to the Authority – 14 and 21 December 2010

9                 MED’s responses to the Authority’s request for further information – 25 January 2011

10               TVWorks’ response to the Authority’s request for further information – 4 February 2011