Target rightfully slapped by BSA

June 4th, 2010 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

TV3 consumer affairs programme Target has been ordered to pay nearly $40,000 after it wrongly accused an Auckland cafe of selling food with a high faecal coliform reading. …

Target wrote to Cafe Cezanne’s owners telling them a chicken sandwich from their cafe had tested positive for faecal coliforms. However, the letter contained incorrect information about the date of purchase.

The owners questioned whether the sample was from their cafe but Target went ahead with the broadcast.

The programme was forced to apologise the following week after it found a mistake had been made in labelling the samples, and the show broadcast a statement saying: “Due to a human error by a former Target staff member coding the results, we cannot confirm which cafe produced this high faecal coliform count”.

This is the worse part of what Target did. Their original appalling error was bad enough, but their so called apology actually made it worse by leaving open the possibility the cafe was Cezanne, when it could not have been.

I really don’t know why it is so hard for some media companies to simply say sorry without reservation and make a full apology.

The full BSA decision is here.

I recommend people with an interest, read it. You’ll be in no doubt that the got this one right. Target could well have destroyed the cafe’s reputation and business.

The starting point for payment of a successful complainant’s legal expenses is 30%. The fact the BSA ordered Mediaworks to pay 100% speaks volumes about how serious this was. They also ordered them to apologise not just on Target, but on all the Mediaworks radio stations, and to take out an ad in the Herald. That may help restore the damage done to Cafe Cezanne.

Both Fair Go and Target are great shows which have provided many benefits to consumers. But they have to be beyond reproach in the way they collect and analyse data, and in this case Target fall way short. Hopefully they will learn from this, so there is never a repeat. This means not just a change in procedures, but also in attitudes. Their treatment of the cafe owners was arrogant and their initial apology grudging.

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21 Responses to “Target rightfully slapped by BSA”

  1. peterwn (3,192 comments) says:

    A ‘voiceover’ apology through clenched teeth which seems usual in such cases is just not good enough. IMO the CEO should be required to appear on screen and make the apology personally (with subtitles) in such cases.

    Presumably the cafe is also going TV3 for defamation. The only issue here seems ‘how much’. Just like when a NZBC radio station announcer said (without a shred of valid evidence) that Rob Muldoon’s son had been busted for drugs. Naturally, daddy was not impressed and got the best available defamation lawyer on the case. A NZBC staffer commented privately at the time, ‘what can you do but sack the announcer and settle the case the best you can’.

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  2. Doug (407 comments) says:

    It would make for great TV if Fair Go could get Cafe Cezanne’s owners to appear and make a case for all lost earnings against Target. I am sure it would be more than the $40000 Dollars awarded on all the bad publicity and lost Business.

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  3. Nomestradamus (3,077 comments) says:

    Completely agree with Peterwn. This is a piss-poor response from the Target producers. Their modus operandi is all about sting operations so they should front up with a genuine apology when they get it wrong.

    I never thought I’d say this but a ‘primetime’ media show on Australian TV recently took a more constructive approach by highlighting the bigger picture:

    Testing has shown four out of five sushi samples bought in certain areas are crawling with bacteria which can cause serious illness.

    Microbiologist Glen Pinna tested 60 sushi rolls purchased from shopping centres, restaurants and takeaways in suburban and city outlets.

    In Sydney, four out of five shops failed tests – most were already on the name and shame list. A beef sushi roll tested positive to the potentially deadly staphylococcus bacteria, 26 times above the limit. Four sushi rolls had had hidden bacillus cereus, a food poisoning bug found in rice. It should be at levels less than 100 – one chicken roll had a count of 600.

    In Brisbane, almost half of the sushi outlets failed. A chicken terriyaki roll tested posted to staphylococcus at levels 29 times higher than what is acceptable.

    The sample also tested positive to bacillus cereus.

    The most worrying sample was purchased at an outlet on Brisbane’s southside with a sushi roll testing positive to listeria. “Listeria can cause still birth in pregnant women and serious infections that can lead to death,” Glen said. It’s one of the more dangerous food poisoning bacteria because its growth is not slowed by colder temperatures.

    Sushi outlets in Melbourne recorded a clean bill of health but overall more than one in 10 sushi outlets around the country failed tests.

    Seven out of 60 samples were crawling with bugs.

    And a final warning from Glen: “We did this in the cold months – its almost winter. In the summer months I would expect these levels to be a lot higher.”

    It certainly caused me to rethink takeaway sushi – I still love my sushi at reputable dine-in restaurants though!

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  4. aardvark (417 comments) says:

    Ah, but were the table-cloths drenched in formaldehyde like those Chinese teeshirts?

    Oh hang on, that was another Target stuff-up.

    Perhaps someone should do a “test” on Target. Perhaps a hidden camera test of TV consumer protection programmes?

    Bring back Ian Orchard with his lab-coat… at least he spoke with authority and you knew he’d researched his material properly, without the gross and inexcusable errors that now seem rampant in Target.

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  5. m@tt (604 comments) says:

    “I really don’t know why it is so hard for some media companies to simply say sorry without reservation and make a full apology.”
    For the same reason most MP’s can’t ever seem to give a straight answer or make a straight apology. It’s called arse covering, or sometimes it’s just pure pride and ego.

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  6. RKBee (1,344 comments) says:

    This is a straight forward case for the BSA with Fair Go program admitting an error was made.
    But the BSA usually rule on media programs as unbalanced.. meaning a programs facts should be equally balanced with bullshit.

    and i’m not a fan of the BSA’s authority a ruling panel made up of Tom Dick and Harry.

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  7. scrubone (3,074 comments) says:

    Fair Go’s no better. They slipped in a “correction” early this year which left more questions than it answered.

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  8. db (22 comments) says:

    I used to enjoy Target. I haven’t watched a single episode since they ran a very one-sided piece on copyright infringement that appeared to have been dictated by the recording industry. At that moment they lost all credibility with me and I haven’t been back since.

    Shame on you, Target!

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  9. Alan Wilkinson (1,839 comments) says:

    Target degenerated into a totally nauseous bunch of sanctimonious twits so long ago I’m amazed it’s still on air. Must be Labour voters watching it.

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  10. big bruv (13,454 comments) says:

    I think it was Sir Robert Jones who first described the media as slime.

    Once again Sir Bob was dead right.

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  11. peterwn (3,192 comments) says:

    m@tt – like the recent Bob Jones – Chris Lee lawsuit where Bob trounced Chris. I thought at forst that Bob was being Bob (he has taken some IMO frivolous lawsuits), but it turned out that Chris had goofed, but apparently was not man enough to retract and apologise in public. Bob said he would have been quite happy with this, and this is an option usually open to prospective defamation defendants under the Defamation Act. Seemed Chris thought he could bluster it out in court but got KO’ed by Bob.

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  12. NOt1tocommentoften (436 comments) says:

    Bit of a generalisation BB – using the exception to prove the rule. I’m not saying I don’t criticise them myself but you chose your arguments.

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  13. Dominic Sheehan (2 comments) says:

    RKBee – “BSA usually rule on media programs as unbalanced” – actually no, accuracy was our top complained-about standard last year. Balance came third, behind good taste and decency. “i’m not a fan of the BSA’s authority a ruling panel made up of Tom Dick and Harry” – none of those guys among the four board members…we have a Peter though.

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  14. GPT1 (2,101 comments) says:

    This is doubly appalling because Target sets itself up as some sort of watchdog and is quite happy to pass judgment (often in the most condescending way – imho) on everyone else but can’t sort their own stuff out.

    And I agree, why they hell fight a cock up that bad? Mea culpa time.

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  15. RKBee (1,344 comments) says:

    Yes Dominic I have been following the Let us Spray complaint and now the follow up information… which quiet frankly makes your good taste and decency of the facts look truly unbalanced. Peter that.

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  16. Jeremy Harris (323 comments) says:

    Just wanted to say: I eat at Cezanne regularly – it is great…

    Go if you get a chance…

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  17. Murray (8,838 comments) says:

    Somebody target Target. Lets get some covert shots of their production staff sniffing panties. Thats pretty much all they’re good for.

    And hands up everyone else who is tired of being “shocked by their findings”.

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  18. Hurf Durf (2,860 comments) says:

    And TV3 loses even more credibility it already didn’t have.

    It should just rename itself the Glee Channel and shut up.

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  19. jarbury (464 comments) says:

    Yeah the tragedy about the whole thing is the Cezanne is one of the best cafes you’ll find in Auckland. I’m glad that they’ve survived throug this and I have certainly gone out of my way to give them some business in recent times.

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  20. Nigel Kearney (904 comments) says:

    Target is awful but I don’t agree with some “standards” authority being able to penalize broadcasters just for saying something the authority decides is not accurate. If this was done with print media or the internet it would be rightly regarded as a gross violation of freedom of expression.

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  21. tristanb (1,133 comments) says:

    Eating Media Lunch did a “Target on Target” once, which showed what the camera-installers got up to. It was highly inappropriate. The clip isn’t on TVNZ on demand any more unfortunately. (Series 1, Episode 2).

    Like most, I agree that Target is a show made for (and by) sanctimonious voyeurs. Hopefully it gets tradesman to start thinking twice about sniffing laundry. I’m sure Target purposely leaves framed photos of a pretty woman throughout the house, with skimpy knickers on the top of a pile of washing… but still.

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