The Australian Press Council has considered a complaint by John Jarvis about two articles in The Courier-Mail in Queensland concerning the possibility of a second National Rugby League team being established in Brisbane.
Mr Jarvis complained that the articles, published on 27 January 2011, should have included a disclosure by the newspaper that its parent company, News Limited, owns two-thirds of the shares in the existing Brisbane team, the Brisbane Broncos. He did not complain about any other aspects of the articles, including their accuracy or fairness.
The Courier-Mail said that the ownership issue had been frequently reported by the newspaper, as well as extensively covered in other media, over the past decade and was very well-known to its readers. It provided a number of such reports in the newspaper between 2005 and 2011. It also said that the articles complained about by Mr Jarvis did not contain any information or comment that could reasonably be considered as favourable to the financial or other interests of the Brisbane Broncos, News Limited or the newspaper itself.
The Council considers that, in general, a close financial relationship between a newspaper and another organisation should be disclosed in articles that may affect that organisation’s financial interest. The Council considers that in this case, however, the relationship was well-known amongst the vast majority of likely readers and the article was clearly not favourable to the newspaper’s interests. The Council has concluded that the combination of these two factors justified the absence of a disclosure in this instance. Accordingly, the complaint is dismissed.
The Council notes that when assessing the knowledge of likely readers it is becoming increasingly necessary to take account of readers who are outside a newspaper’s primary area of distribution but access it via a website of the newspaper or another source such as an internet search engine. Accordingly, it is considering whether to issue a Practice Standard on declarations of interest that should be included in on-line versions of a newspaper even if not required in print versions