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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

A Clean Out at TVNZ?

There is an interesting stoush developing over at Keablog. Last week Radio NZ broadcast a Nine to Noon interview with TVNZ executive Chris Harrington, in which interview Harrington berated bloggers in general for all sorts of perceived misdeeds and one blog in particular (unnamed but carefully identified) for plagiarism, stealing his story, using his reporters' notebooks and finally of 'going directly to "his" sources.' Harrington's voice had the same pious, somewhat hurt, sanctimonious tone to which I became used when Russell Brown was fronting Mediawatch for RNZ. Well he'd have to, wouldn't he because he boomed up RB as the only blogger of virtue, as I remember the interview.

Harrington identified the 'offending' blog by citing its most unusual slogan, based on the latin phrase 'cogito ergo sum.' He seemed fixated on the use of this slogan but that's another story.

Jason Watson has responded to Harrington's sly attack on him and his blog and it remains to be seen whether a BSA complaint to RNZ or defamation action eventuates.

I feel that I was unfairly singled out by Chris Harrington (the TVNZ reporter who made the allegations on National radio). He went on to make several other claims that were patently false and mis-leading, I did not use TVNZ's reporters notebooks and I knew the source before they were involved with TVNZ

I suspect the likelihood of defamation action is high as Jason Watson earns a living as a writer, having published one or more books and being in the throes of another. Of course the rub is that his current book is centred on the story which Harrington accuses him of stealing - the Berhampore sex abuse allegations. The trouble is, it seems Watson got to the story long before Harrington, with his millions of charter dollars, even got a sniff of it. You see, Watson and one of the sources sit beside each other each Sunday at church and have done so for some time. You might not also be aware that Harrington heads the very expensive recently formed "Investigative Unit" which was going to bring to viewers high quality breaking stories of major import. The last report about this unit I recall reading some months ago indicated it had not lived up to expectations. I seem to recall reading that a particular story had been sidelined and would be presented 'at a suitable time in the future.' So much for breaking stories. More like breaking wind, methinks.

So, dear readers, one could be forgiven for thinking that perhaps Mr Harrington feels the cool winds of performance review blowing and is seeking excuses. So convenient for a State TV executive to have obliging friends at Radio Left Wing when he needs them. (When you listen to the interveiw you will hear Harrington assert at least two if not three times that 'bloggers are not covered by defamation law' or words to that effect. His employers should take careful note of this fellow's industry knowledge.)

What do you need to prove defamation? Motive? Malicious intent? Falsehood?

Should be worth a look in a week or two.
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Posted by Adolf Fiinkensein | 10/25/2005 07:50:00 AM


Blogger Gooner said...

What do you need for defamation?

I haven't listened to the interview but imagine Watson's biggest hurdle will be identification. You have to actually show that any defamatory comment was about you, or is easily identifiable to be you. That's why you can't defame organisations because you can't identify who the defamatory comment is aimed at. Apart from that, defamation is extraordinarily specialised subject and has a myriad of defences and also has some peculiarities in the Defamation Act to get around.

Motive is not usually an issue. I can't recall whether malicious intent is now covered in the Defamation Act (in respect of saying it's not necessary to show it) but I think it does say that. Falsehood is necessary of course but there comes some baggage with that in terms of defence of Honest Opinion.

All in all, stay away from it unless you're pretty certain you've got a water-tight case (is there such a thing in law?).

10/25/2005 01:24:00 PM  

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