Most businesses face adverse publicity at some stage, deservedly
or otherwise. Featuring in a television current affairs
investigation pretty much tops the list of difficult PR events.
Nobody wants to see a balanced story on TV. Bo-ring.
There's a fine line between 'TV spin' and a big fat
steaming lie. It's important to understand your legal rights if
the press falls on the wrong side of the line.
Online restaurant home delivery ordering service Menulog found
out all about adverse PR recently. A Current Affair was planning to
run a piece on a scam in which it said Menulog was involved. But
Menulog had already explained to ACA, in some detail, that another
business was responsible for the incident in question.
Roll out the lawyers and the last minute urgent injunction
application. The hard part is that your legal options in this
scenario are actually pretty limited. Here's why.
Defamation: with a couple of exceptions, companies
can't sue in defamation.
Misleading or deceptive conduct: news services are
generally exempt from liability.
Negligent misstatement: you have to prove that the
media owe you a duty of care.
Injurious falsehood: you have to prove that the
publication is both false and malicious.
Menulog ran with option (d). And, against the odds, they showed
that they had an arguable case on malice and stopped the ACA
broadcast, at least for now. The judge said that a reckless
indifference to the truth and knowledge of the falsity of a
statement can justify an inference of malice. And that was enough
to get Menulog its interim injunction.
It's pretty rare to stop a broadcast like this. The claims
are hard to make out, and often the best advice is to batten down
the hatches and ring up your PR agency. The Menulog decision
highlights that you should examine your legal options really
closely before rolling over to the media.
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