Complaint: 18/009



The Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management
No Grounds to Proceed
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Decision Document





ADVERTISER The Ministry of Civil Defence and

Emergency Management


DATE OF MEETING 29 January 2018

OUTCOME No Grounds to Proceed

Advertisement: The Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management television advertisement instructs on what to do in an earthquake using an animation figure sheltering under a table and says "When an earthquake happens, immediately drop, cover and hold. Drop so you don't get knocked off your feet. Cover your head and neck. Get under a desk or a table if you can. Hold until after the shaking stops." The advertisement ends with the Civil Defence logo and website address

The Chair ruled there were no grounds for the complaint to proceed.

Complainant, L Botha, said: The advert states that in the event of an earthquake you should get under a table and hold on. There's been significant research and factual evidence to prove that it is not the safest place to hide during an earthquake. The better option would be to lie down or kneel beside a solid object (couch, bed, cabinet, etc.

The area directly adjacent to solid objects have been referred to as the 'triangle of life', I

think it's important in the advert to highlight this in a straight forward manner, just like the

table example currently used.

The relevant provisions were Code of Ethics - Basic Principle 4, Rule 11, Rule 2;

The Chair noted the Complainant's sincere concern the advertisement was misleading by

presenting inaccurate safety information about how to react in an earthquake.

The Chair began by considering the advertisement under Rule 11 of the Code of Ethics. Rule 11 of the Code of Ethics provided for robust expression of belief or opinion being as expressed by the Advertiser and, therefore, such opinions may be robust. However, opinion should be clearly distinguishable from factual information.

Also applicable were the Advocacy Principles, developed by the Complaints Board in previous Decisions for the application of Rule 11. These said:

1 That section 14 of the Bill of Rights Act 1990, in granting the right of freedom of expression, allows advertisers to impart information and opinions but that in exercising that right what was factual information and what was opinion, should be clearly distinguishable.


2. That the right of freedom of expression as stated in section 14 is not absolute as there could be an infringement of other people's rights. Care should be taken to ensure that this does not occur.

3. That the Codes fetter the right granted by section 14 to ensure there is fair play between all parties on controversial issues. Therefore in advocacy advertising and particularly on political matters the spirit of the Code is more important than technical breaches. People have the right to express their views and this right should not be unduly or unreasonably restricted by Rules.

4. That robust debate in a democratic society is to be encouraged by the media and advertisers and that the Codes should be interpreted liberally to ensure fair play by the contestants.

5. That it is essential in all advocacy advertisements that the identity of the advertiser is clear.

The Chair said the advocacy advertising contained an important safety message educating the public about how to reduce the chance of being injured during an earthquake. The Chair noted the Advertiser was clearly identified and said the advertisement complied with the requirements of Rule 11 of the Code of Ethics.

The Chair acknowledged the Advertiser was entitled to present the "Drop, Cover, and Hold" method as providing the best overall chance of quickly protecting yourself during an earthquake. The Complainant's reference to the "Triangle of Life" was an alternative theory and not one the Advertiser supported. The Chair confirmed that this did not make the advertisement misleading.

The Chair said the advertisement had been prepared with a due sense of responsibility and there was no apparent breach of Rule 2, Rule 11 or Basic Principle 4 of the Code of Ethics.

Accordingly, the Chair ruled that there were no grounds for the complaint to proceed.

Chai r 's Ruli ng: Complaint No Grounds to Proceed