TVNZ news boss rubbishes MediaWorks audience claims, calls them fake news
A war of words has erupted between senior TV news executives after a TVNZ boss accused rivals MediaWorks - who broadcast channel Three - of "fake news".
A new MediaWorks marketing campaign promoting Newshub as "New Zealand's number one news source" has TVNZ's head of news and current affairs John Gillespie crying foul.
In an email sent to the TVNZ news team, veteran newsman Gillespie called the campaign "a new low" for MediaWorks, adding, "they're now in the business of putting out fake news".
"I think it completely undermines their news credibility to promote themselves with misleading facts," Gillespie continued. "I think by doing so they are treating New Zealanders with contempt."
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Among other things, the MediaWorks campaign states that "every day, more New Zealanders get their news from us", and claims an audience of "three million Kiwis and counting".
MediaWorks also emphasises their audience reach in what they term "the most commercially important" 25-54 age demographic (the sector advertisers traditionally target), stating that 47 per cent of the Newshub Live At 6pm audience is in this demo, compared to just 25 per cent for 1 News.
Gillespie told Stuff that in his view "Newshub is selectively cherry picking audience statistics to flatter its news performance".
"Newshub claims a higher proportion of 25 to 54-year-old viewers than 1 News but conveniently ignores the fact that 1 News' average daily reach among this same age group is 37 per cent higher."
"It's one thing to gild the lily via its reality TV shows, but to extend this approach to news brings Newshub's credibility into question."
Gillespie also levelled the "fake news" claim in an article in the trade journal StopPress.
But MediaWorks news chief Hal Crawford stands by the campaign.
"Everything that we've said in that campaign is absolutely correct," says Crawford. "For me, it all comes down to how you think about your news brand, how your audience thinks about your news brand, and how you present yourself.
"If you regard digital as being integral to your news - and we do - our 25-54 audience is absolutely bigger than 1 News. Are you just looking at your product as a sort of one-medium, one-format beast, or are you thinking that you're multi-platform? We do, and therefore we're quite comfortable saying our reach is bigger."
Asked for clarification on how they arrived at their figures, a MediaWorks spokesperson released this statement:
"Across our televised news bulletins and programmes, RadioLIVE news and talk radio stations, news bulletins across our eight other radio brands, and digital news content on web, we reach over three million New Zealanders every month - more than any other news service."
"This number is the unduplicated reach numbers for the month of March 2017, across all of our news-related entities in TV, radio and digital. We have consistently been reaching over three million New Zealanders every month since late 2016, when this tagline was first used by Newshub."
For their part, TVNZ say more than 1.8 million viewers watch 1 News every week and claim an average daily 6pm audience of 946,000 versus 420,000 for Newshub Live At 6pm.