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3 Committed To Bringing Viewers Important Stories


3 News says it has a responsibility and a determination to continue to broadcast significant stories like ‘Corngate’ because that’s what viewers expect of a truly independent television news service.

The Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) has ruled that 3 was in breach of broadcasting standards in its story on the release of contaminated corn seed into the New Zealand ecosystem, aired in July last year. The BSA’s decision said 3 did not, in some respects, deal fairly in the presentation of the story.

3’s Director of News and Current Affairs, Mark Jennings, said he was heartened that the Authority did not find fault with the facts of the story.

“ We knew the story was right, we knew we had done our homework and the BSA ruling largely validates that view. We believe it was an important story that needed to be told,” said Mr Jennings.

“As expected the BSA has ruled that the Prime Minister was not dealt with unfairly in the preparation of this story, there was no ‘ambush’ and the interview was conducted in an appropriate way.

“What is of major concern is the BSA’s contention that 3 should have revealed its sources to the Prime Minister during the interview.

“In the interests of journalistic integrity we were not prepared to do that in this case, nor will we at any point in the future,” said Mr Jennings.

“This so called breach of fairness raises significant questions regarding fundamental journalistic principles, and freedom of expression.

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“Here we gave an undertaking to Mr Hager that we would not tell anybody about his book until it was released. The interview took place the day before the book’s release.

3 is considering a High Court challenge to this ruling.

“On the other aspects of the decision, we find it strange that the Authority has raised questions of style rather than substance under the categories of balance and accuracy,” Mr Jennings said. “This ruling from the BSA does not throw doubt on the underlying substance of the story. It only questions aspects of how the story was presented and that’s an important difference,” he said.

The so-called “Corngate” story went to air on July 10, 2002. The investigation was based on the findings of investigative journalist, Nicky Hager, who had published a book entitled “Seeds of Distrust.” The 3 Special included a background tape item and a spirited debate between 3 presenter John Campbell and the Prime Minister Helen Clark.

The Prime Minister subsequently claimed she had not had an opportunity to be fully briefed on the subject and accused 3 of ‘ambush journalism’. The programme, based on the findings contained in the Hager book, contained allegations of a government cover-up of the planting, in three New Zealand regions, of imported corn seed that had tested positively for contamination. A decision was then made to allow that corn to grow and be harvested and to enter the food chain.

“Our job at 3 News is to challenge and scrutinise those in powerful positions. You can be assured that as an independent broadcaster we will not shirk that responsibility,” said Mr Jennings.


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