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Comparison of PHARMAC with UK agency was misleading

17 December 2019

BSA finds comparison of PHARMAC with UK agency in radio interview was misleading
The Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) has upheld part of a complaint that an interview on RNZ’s Checkpoint was misleading and breached the accuracy broadcasting standard.

Guyon Espiner interviewed the CEO of the United Kingdom’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), Sir Andrew Dillon, about NICE’s methods and approach to approving drugs for purchase.

The Authority found that listeners were invited by the item to draw comparisons between the role and functions of NICE and PHARMAC in the New Zealand context, without the provision of all relevant information about the differences between the two entities. The omission of relevant contextual information had the potential to mislead listeners.

“Without that background there was the potential to cause harm by misleading listeners into drawing unduly negative conclusions about PHARMAC’s performance and transparency, as compared to NICE.”

Primarily, the Authority noted PHARMAC operates within budget constraints, which is an important feature of its role and functions. By comparison NICE is an advisory body that makes recommendations on the use of new medicines and treatments, which the UK’s National Health Service is then obliged to fund. The Authority said the item suggested the two agencies are directly comparable when they are not.

The Authority did not uphold the complaint under the balance standard, as inviting a comparison of the two agencies did not amount to a discussion of a controversial issue to which the balance standard applied.

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The Authority also did not find any breach of the fairness standard on the grounds PHARMAC is a high-profile, public-facing agency which is frequently subject to scrutiny and criticism and it was not necessary to give PHARMAC an opportunity to comment in this case.

The Authority did not make any order against the broadcaster, finding the decision was sufficient to publicly notify the breach and also provides guidance to broadcasters on the level of care required by the accuracy standard.

This item was broadcast on 1 July 2019 on RNZ National. The full decision is available at The decision was made under the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice which is available to view on our website:


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