MATTHEW HARRIS AGAINST WAIKATO TIMES

Case Number: 2202

Council Meeting: AUGUST 2011

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: Waikato Times

Ruling Categories: Errors, Apology and Correction Sought
Privacy
Confidentiality
Comment and Fact
Balance, Lack Of
Misrepresentation, Deception or Subterfuge
Accuracy
Unfair Coverage

Matthew Harris in a brief complaint claims Waikato Times failed to comply with Principles 1 (Accuracy, Fairness and Balance), 2 (Privacy), 4 (Comment and Fact), 7 (Confidentiality), 8 (Subterfuge) and 11 (Corrections) of the Press Council Statement of Principles in reporting matters around the sale of a Nintendo video game titled “Dead or Alive: Dimensions”. The Press Council does not uphold the complaint.

Background
On June 2, 2011 Waikato Times ran a story headed “Withdraw in Europe… sold out in Hamilton”. The story reported on the sale of the video game, allocated a PG classification by the New Zealand censor, by a Hamilton retailer EB Games. The game allegedly violated European “child pornography laws”. The story basically asked why the game, which apparently included a mode that allowed players to “undress” female characters, was apparently freely available in New Zealand while being “pulled” from sale in Europe.

The story reported comments in connection with the game from EB Games head office; from a Liz Quilty the mother of three children aged between 12 and 15; from an unidentified Hamilton expert in rape and sexual abuse and from other sources. EB Games said it had complied with all classification legislation. Ms Quilty made various remarks about the unsuitability of the game for minors. The expert’s views reflected those of Ms Quilty.

The story referred to the Nintendo game trailer as carrying a warning over content. The story reported the Chief Censor Dr Andrew Jack as having called the game back for re-classification as a result of the Waikato Times enquiries.

The Complaint
Matthew Harris claims the Waikato Times article;
a. insinuated that EB Games was selling the game to minors “with no proof” (presumably of age);
b. did not prove any minor had purchased the game;
c. mentioned EB games without referring to other retailers who might have sold the game (this amounting to harassment);
d. did not say the Quilty family has purchased the game; and
e. otherwise misrepresented the facts particularly in connection with EB Games.


The Response
Waikato Times responds by denying the claim its reporting breached the Principles in question. In particular;
a. The story did not imply the game was being sold by EB Games to minors improperly. The game had been given a PG classification;
b. There was no need to say minors were actually buying the game. This was not the point. The point was the game had been given a “child friendly” rating allowing children to play and buy the game;
c. Simply highlighting the fact the game was available at a particular store is not harassment;
d. The point in mentioning the Quilty family was to demonstrate their particular opposition to the game and that they would not be buying it.

The Decision
The Council does not agree with Matthew Harris.

The real thrust for the Waikato Times story was the apparent inconsistency between the approach taken by regulators in Europe to the “Dead or Alive: Dimensions” game on the one hand and that taken by the New Zealand censor on the other. The classification of video games in this country has been topical and at times controversial. The Council sees the story in question as being aimed squarely at this issue.

The Council does not take the view EB Games was referred to in an unbalanced way or was otherwise “harassed”. There was no suggestion by Waikato Times that EB Games had acted illegally. Putting it simply the story pointed to a game with salacious content being freely available for sale in Hamilton when perhaps it should not have been. EB Games was correctly described as a retail outlet through which the game was distributed. Questions had been raised and the Chief Censor had responded by agreeing to re-look at the classification.

The complaint is not upheld.

Press Council members considering this complaint were Barry Paterson, Pip Bruce Ferguson, Kate Coughlan, Chris Darlow, Sandy Gill, Penny Harding, Keith Lees, John Roughan, Lynn Scott and Stephen Stewart.

Clive Lind took no part in the consideration of this complaint.