Request for costs of advertising campaign
Release would undermine strategy to increase advertising revenue—s 9(2)(i) applies
TVNZ refused a request for costs in relation to its ‘We Are One’ advertising campaign under section 9(2)(i) (commercial activities), and the requester complained to the Ombudsman.
The Chief Ombudsman formed the opinion that section 9(2)(i) provided good reason to withhold the information. The We Are One campaign was an intrinsic part of TVNZ’s strategy to increase market share and advertising revenue by revitalising the TV ONE brand.
Collecting advertising revenue is a commercial activity, as its predominant purpose is to make a profit. Release of the information would disadvantage TVNZ in carrying out this commercial activity, as it would allow competitors to anticipate TVNZ’s level of investment in the campaign. This would allow competitors to divert their own promotional funding to compete directly with TVNZ, or to target other areas where TVNZ is placing less emphasis, in an intensely competitive market for free-to-air advertising revenue. The Chief Ombudsman concluded that the campaign costs reveal an essential element of TVNZ’s marketing strategy, and access to this information would provide a competitive advantage to other players in the market.
While there is a public interest in the disclosure of information about how a crown entity expends its funds, the overall public interest would not be served by release of information that undermined the ability of TVNZ to maintain its commercial performance in a competitive market. TVNZ is in a different position to a core government department, as it is required to maintain its commercial performance and operate as a successful going concern. The Chief Ombudsman noted that only 10 percent of TVNZ’s annual running costs were contributed by the taxpayer, and the remaining 90 percent were funded by advertising revenue.
This case note is published under the authority of the Ombudsmen Rules 1989. It sets out an Ombudsman’s view on the facts of a particular case. It should not be taken as establishing any legal precedent that would bind an Ombudsman in future.