Brian Edwards Media

Second Story

ankle bracelet

Here’s a free piece of media advice for you: if you or your company are in the gun and you’re invited to appear on a live TV current affairs show like Fair Go or Seven Sharp or Story, either politely decline the invitation, preferably without giving reasons for your decision – that’s giving an interview! – or, if you’re pretty confident you can handle it, agree to be interviewed “live” in the Auckland studio or not at all. The airfare will be worth it.

Don’t agree to be interviewed “down the line”, which can involve standing in the middle of a paddock or sitting behind your office desk with a hearing-aid thingee occasionally falling out of your ear as you try to talk to some extremely hostile person you can’t see. TV interviewers are most courageous when you aren’t sitting directly opposite them. And least courageous when you are. Well, it’s so much easier to cut someone off or talk over them when you’re the people controlling the switch. 

I was reminded of this watching the CEO of Ray White, Kerry Smith,  being interviewed by Heather Du Plessis-Allan on Story last night. Heather’s  in Auckland with cohort Duncan Garner and the Ray White man is in a studio in Hamilton. He’s plonked in front of some sort of patterned screen, gives every appearance of being paralysed with fear and submits to a couple of minutes of fairly aggressive and interruptive interviewing by Ms Du Plessis-Allan.

You might think the matter should end there. But Duncan feels the man’s performance requires a review from him. So he says to Heather (and us), “Not exactly brimming with confidence, was he?” Heather agrees.

If I were the CEO of TV3, I’d have had both of them in my office the second the programme ended. Garner’s comment was gratuitous and out of order. It reminded me of an occasion when the people at Fair Go set up a “wall of shame” on which they put up the names of people who’d declined their kind invitation to appear on the programme. Arrogance is the most common characteristic of television presenters and it increases exponentially with the amount of power their programme gives them. I should know. I was one of the worst.

The Ray White item was followed by an interview with a security guard for First Security  who was an expert on monitored ankle bracelets for remand prisoners. We only saw him in silhouette with his voice altered which added to the suspense. I thought he was really good. The item was both interesting and informative. Especially informative to the criminal fraternity, I thought, since it demonstrated just how easy it is to cut the band on your ankle bracelet with an everyday pair of kitchen scissors..

Tonight on Story: Heather grills the Head of Save The Children and Duncan demonstrates how to crack the door of your office safe, if it won’t open. Apparently works with almost any safe.

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  1. Someone who watched the programme commented that as a result of its activities, a real estate agent who was doing her job of selling a house at a price her client was happy with has now lost her job.

    Presumably the price of TV3 creating sensationalism in pursuit of market share.

    • Quite. A sense of personal responsibility for all the clever and ratings-enhancing things you say and do has become increasingly rare among television journalists. I can only assume that they no longer teach it at the Christchurch Broadcasting School or the AUT.

  2. Except that the Agent is being paid by the vendor to get the best price rather than one that her client was satisfied with
    Anything else is theft as a servant

    • Exactly! This woman deserved to lose her job. I thought ‘story’ showed great promise. We shall see.

    • 2.2

      I didn’t see the programme so I don’t know what the sting entailed. However the “best price” is subjective and usually the agents are incentivised to maximise it by their commission structure.

      What actually happened?

  3. I tried to watch Story last night but found the style so annoying and a bit icky that I turned it off. I changed to using the Radio NZ app for most of my news these days because they tend to concentrate on quality rather than shock….

    • I agree completely. Tell me the facts. Don’t try to hype it into a ‘story’. And definitely don’t try to put the ‘story’ before the facts.

  4. She entered into an agreement to sell the house at a lower price before it was to go to auction the buyer then spruces the house up a little and the same agent sells it again. Two commissions.

    • 4.1

      So what is the problem? The first seller sold quickly and was happy – otherwise she would have gone to auction. The second seller did something useful and profited from it. The agent marketed twice and sold twice.

      • Presumably the agent, without informing the vendor of the developer’s intentions, advised the vendor to accept the quick sale, rather than wait for the risk of an auction.

        The way the sting on TV worked was uncovering the implication the agent would pitch to the vendor something like, “my feeling is this offer may not be around when you get to auction, you may not get as good a price then/it may not even sell”, etc.

        The vendor does indeed get the quick money, and ultimately it was their decision. However they did not know all the facts. And the developer got in before anyone else could – and the agent earned two commissions when the developer on-sold using the agent again, as pre-agreed.

        Which wold be ok if the agent was duty-bound to work in the developers best interests…not the vendor’s.

        Or at least that is how I understood the angle they were taking…


          So the developer created a conflict of interest by recruiting the agent while she was still working for the vendor. I agree she needed to reveal that to the vendor.


          So in what sense was it a sting? Did TV3 set up the developer?

          • Nope, the agent via someone posing as a developer.

            He extracted an agreement from the agent to “ensure” the property did not go to auction in return for a second commission when the developer on-sold.


            No agent can ensure that it won’t go to auction since that is a decision made by the vendor. How far did the deal progress? I take it the fake developer must have pulled out before signing a binding purchase offer.

            • Yes, you are right that the vendor makes the final decision. However, they would have been selling via an agent acting in bad faith.

              In the sting the developer simply extracted the agreement from the agent that the developer did not want it to go to auction, and an acknowledged understanding on the part of the agent why – because that would cut into the developer’s profit once they on-sold. In return the agent was guaranteed the commission when the developer on-sold.

              Therefore, by implication the agent

              1. would have been using all their persuasive powers to get the vendor to agree, presumably with advice that would have been biased, and maybe even false concerning market conditions and likelihood of sale at a higher price at auction

              2. also the agent was certainly agreeing with the developer that it was in both their interests that the property did not go to auction, lest it fetch a higher price. Therefore the agent was failing to act in the vendor’s interests to get the highest price possible.


                Frankly I can’t see any problem with the agent’s actions you’ve outlined. She listened to his b.s. and said she would take his offer to the client. But he never signed up to it. The rest is mere innuendo as to what she would have told the vendor and recommended.

            • So, no, a sale and purchase agreement was not signed.

              It was not clear if there was an actual property being discussed, or if the agent was being recruited as the developer’s mole on the inside…presumably to bring suitable properties to his attention, and to then collude together to avoid the risk of a higher sale price via auction.


                Oh dear, more and more nebulous. And the agent lost her job because of this crap. Disgraceful.


                  No, the two agents resigned once it became known they had been caught on film.


                  “These rules…set out the standard of conduct and care that agents, branch managers, and salespersons are required to meet when carrying out real estate agency work. (They) require licensees to…explain to a prospective client, before an agency agreement is signed, the relationship between choices that the person may make about how to sell that person’s property or business and the individual benefits that the licensee may receive”

                  The implication in the discussion was that the agent would not advise the vendor there was a pre-existing agreement/understanding to assist the developer to on-sell and earn a second commission.


                  I’m lost now on what was real and what was speculation and what was speculation about speculation.


                  TV3 put the proposal to four different agents. Two turned them down, presumably because they considered it unethical.


                  “I’m lost now on what was real and what was speculation and what was speculation about speculation.”

                  Fair enough.

                  A professional cricket player is caught on tape discussing the hypothetical speculation of being dismissed cheaply in an upcoming game and how it may or may not adversely affect the result – after all someone else in his team may score enough runs so that they win anyway, such is the nature of cricket – and the fact that a lot of people with significant financial resources will benefit if his team does loses.

                  As happens with any game, where some punters win, and some lose.

                  All hypothetical speculations of course.

                  The advice of the ICC and professional players associations? – Pull out of the conversation at the first sign of trouble. The agent in question probably should have done the same.

                  But it sounds like you may be able to assist with any disciplinary hearing before the Real Estate Institute.

  5. The brief Kelly Tarlton’s video was just bizarre. They talk about a turtle they don’t show for one. “How does a sea turtle get hypothermia?” Heather asks Duncan. “How does it get dehydration in the water?” Duncan replies. Neither has an answer so they go back to talking about themselves.

  6. I watched it and it lacked any depth ,there still is plenty of story left in the real estate scam.Although the questioning was agressive I thought the CEO wasnt too worried about the practice.A “yes I would have asked her to leave “would have ended any conjecture .He continued to be non committal to her removal.For the record she actually resigned (maybe she is more ethical than I gave her credit for).
    I know of an agent who didnt turn up to open homes and negotiated with the vendor to buy the property himself at a reduced rate due to a lack of interest.

    • “Although the questioning was agressive I thought the CEO wasnt too worried about the practice.A “yes I would have asked her to leave “would have ended any conjecture .He continued to be non committal to her removal.”

      …probably because it would have been an employment/contractual issues, and there would have been procedures to follow before they could “fire them”.

      Which I’m sure is a procedure Heather du Plessis-Allan and Duncan Garner would appreciate should Mediaworks ever decide THEIR work is not up to scratch.

      Which would also have been known to The Story. So to fill in space and try and maintain the outrage they had to plow on with the interview with “IF she hadn’t resigned, would you have fired her…”

      Great. Having already won some scalps let’s fill up the already-allotted prime time broadcasting space chasing answers to hypotheticals in the hope of another “Gotcha” moment.

  7. Im not sure that the proverbial “quick flick” really serves any useful purpose.

    • 7.1

      Why? It seems this example gave four people what they wanted: a seller, a buyer, a speculator and a real estate agent.

      As well as a TV show marketing beat up.

      • Yes if they were honest with the vendor and he/she agreed to the lower price then fair enough but I think they skipped this step.


          They can’t skip that step. The sale and purchase agreement signed by both parties is a detailed account of the terms and conditions including price of the sale.

          • The sale and purchase agreement Prob didn’t mention the deal between the agent ( who is working for the vendor supposedly ) and the buyer to relist the property almost immediately for its real value.


              No-one knows the real value until you get an unconditional offer and accept it. Until the everything is speculation. It’s not hard to get a list of recent sales in the area and form your own estimate of value. Presumably the vendor had done exactly that. The developer had a different idea but until he had a buyer it was just speculation too. The land agent may not have subscribed to his optimism. She would have got her commission eventually whatever price it reached.


                Yes. But the agent would have really cashed in via two commissions.

                The developer would have scooped up the property rather than risk the price being driven up in an auction.

                And the vendor MAY have missed out on a higher price. All because the agent would have been talking down the probability of

                1. a sale via auction
                2. at a better price

                The developer’s offer may indeed have turned out to be the best deal.

                However, as the agent pre-agreed the strategy with the developer and without the vendor’s knowledge, then in all likelihood any “advice” offered to the vendor was biased, and maybe not even reflective of market conditions.

                Either way, the agent was not acting solely in the vendor’s interests – which was where the breach lay. And that was the angle The Story took.


                My point is that agent talking up or down is meaningless. It is just talk. Everyone knows this. If agents could forecast the market they would be traders, not agents.

                There is nothing wrong with an agent recommending a pre-auction sale at the right price. Just because the “developer” claimed the property was worth more doesn’t mean it was, or that the agent believed him.

                I’ve changed my mind about the agent needing to tell the vendor about the offer background. If she thought it was a b.s. expectation and the offer price realistic the best outcome for the vendor may really have been just to accept it. Since the developer was a fake its more than likely his estimates of actual value were also fake.


                  “My point is that agent talking up or down is meaningless. It is just talk”


                  However, the vendor has a legal expectation that whatever their agent advises will be in good faith, and designed to get them the best price possible within the expected period. Yeah, I know – you are a fool if you can’t do your own research when selling what is most likely the most expensive asset you will ever dispose of. Nonetheless, the law requires agents to work in the unadulterated interests of vendors.

                  In the circumstances it is almost impossible to avoid the conclusion they were agreeing they would not. Any subsequent advice would be clouded by the spectre of self-interest and working primarily on behalf of the developer – not the vendor.

                  And more precisely, it was almost certainly a breach of Real Estate Institute ethics and a proscribed practice.


                  Someone elsewhere said that in the hypothetical discussion on the strategy the agent said the vendor would not know the value of the property. Although that is true for everyone up to the point of sale the context seems to imply an intent to defraud. That would leave her position untenable. The 3News blurb said it was in Mangare Bridge – a relatively poor area of Auckland. I suspect that is relevant.

  8. Tonight on Story: Heather grills the Head of Save The Children and Duncan demonstrates how to crack the door of your office safe, if it won’t open. Apparently works with almost any safe.

    Perhaps it’s just time to write off mass media, at least in New Zealand. I understand that people have an emotional attachment to the idea of mass media being central to the political and cultural life of a country, but as people have said, that may have been just a consequence of past lack of media choice.

    Cat pictures and renovation shows it is then…

  9. …probably because it would have been an employment/contractual issues, and there would have been procedures to follow before they could “fire them”.

    A CEO should understand the position that these actions left his company in .The staff member had already left .Im sure that the ethical breach had been discussed .Why would he consider that this is an acceptable practice (although Alan considers it to be ok).Without the particular case being referenced he could have spoken in broad terms about the companys position.I note that an investigation by the regulatory authority is underway.It will be interesting to review their findings

    • Didn’t work for Mediaworks with John Tamihere.

      Which is why it is good and sound management practice to say that you are not going to discuss the specifics of this case…but you are willing to discuss your approach and policies in general terms. Covers your arse legally. Plus it avoids looking shifty or evasive as Kerry Smith of Ray White unfortunately (and probably inadvertently) did at the hands of the barrage and aggressive interruptions from du Plessis-Allan – as Brian Edwards implies.

      Whereas if Mr Smith had invested a few bob in some advice from Brian and Judy, all would have gone well. Or, if he wants to go on the tele he can have the following advice from me for free for next time: –

      du Plessis-Allan: “Would you have fired the agent if she had not resigned?”

      Kerry Smith: “I’m not going to comment on hypotheticals (especially if the agent we are discussing may try and sue my arse off later!), especially concerning a person who no longer works for us (distances Ray White from the potential negative publicity)

      …but I will reiterate that the public can be confident Ray White will always seek to uphold best real estate practice, and deal with any alleged wrong-doing promptly” (reaffirms Ray White’s integrity).

      Politicians do it all the time. Judith Collins was always a master of it, especially in the tricky Justice portfolio:

      Judith Collins: “I’m not at liberty to discuss the specific allegations against Serco as it is before the courts/the subject of a investigative review which I don’t want to preempt,

      …but our clear policy and expectations are that all prison are places of safe, secure, humane confinement. So something like fighting among inmates will never be condoned, tolerated or facilitated”.

  10. The real test for ‘Story’ is the same as for the rest of us in life – we can all act big when it’s easy, but can we do it when we’re challenged?

    In other words, beating up the hapless untrained public is a doddle, but I’ll reserve judgement until Heather/Duncan interview the Prime Minister, or the CEO of Mediaworks.

    I suspect Story’s fearless approach will be least evident when it is most needed. But we’ll see.

  11. Lauda Finem has an interesting piece on Ray White. It covers a lot of ground but an interesting point is the relationship between those involved and Google New Zealand and The New Zealand Herald. Anyone who has worked in the print industry will know that real estate companies spend a lot of money with print media which tends to affect the approach papers take to news stories regarding them. I won’t include the link as some people might not like Lauda Finem very much although I personally enjoy its frankness and hard boiled writing style, although it can be a bit harsh on some of those it attacks sometimes.