Press Council rules against Herald

The Press Council has ruled that two of the Herald’s editorials against the Electoral Finance Act were inaccurate due to omission of significant details. The Coalition for Open Government sucessfully laid the complaints, which means they have now won complaints against TV stations for initially reporting the EFB was better than it was (the TV stations made the mistake of believing the Minister’s spin in stead of reading the Bill) and against the Herald for making it sound worse than it was.

The basic issue was statements made in editorials that anyone wanting to promote and issue of concern would have to register as a third party, and that they did not mention this only applies if your spending is over $5,000 (in the original bill) or over $12,000 (in the revised bill). The Herald acknowledged that they probably should have, but stated the limit had been mentioned in other stories.

Incidentially if you wish to campaign for or against a candidate the limit is just $1,000 before you must register.

The Council summarises:

The council accepts that it is probably correct that any person or group wanting to promote an issue of concern would be required to spend more than $12,000.

However, this is not the point. The editorial suggested that anyone who wished to promote an issue of concern would need to register as a third party.

The failure to note the $12,000 threshold was a mis-statement of fact, which in the council’s view was not minimised by the words “to promote an issue of concern”.

Nor is it sufficient in the council’s view to say that the correct amount had been mentioned on other occasions.

Pretty difficult to disagree with the conclusion. The level at which you need to register is material and should have been in the editorials.

Incidentally it is well below the $40,000 recommended by electoral authorities.

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