Show contaminated with cock-ups

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The funniest thing about TV3’s so-called consumer show Target (Tuesdays, 7.30pm)? The fact it’s supposed to be taken seriously.

As are, presumably, the producers. For a programme charged with exposing incompetent and dodgy practices in the business sector, it has about as much right to the high-ground as Graham Capill has on the topic of early-childhood education.

Quite why anyone would want to advertise their products and services around this shambles has yet to be adequately explained.

A fundamental requirement of a whistle-blower is integrity, after all. Target has none. In terms of credibility it would be at the bottom of the TV heap, although, admittedly, still one place above Sensing Murder. You’d get better consumer advice from the Wiggles.

Maybe if TV3 re-packaged Target as a comedy, the problem could be solved. But there was nothing very funny about it last month when it almost caused an Auckland cafe to close after incorrectly linking it with contaminated food. The eatery’s owners say they contacted Target’s buffoons before the libel was broadcast to alert them to factual errors, but were ignored.

Since the episode aired, of course, TV3 have conceded (on behalf of the production company Top Shelf Productions) that they blundered with the testing and couldn’t actually confirm which cafe, from
a number surveyed, had produced the contaminated sample. They apologised and in a statement said the employee responsible for the error had been sacked.

Oh well, never mind then. All’s well that ends well. Except it hasn’t ended well for the owners of the falsely accused cafe. In the midst of a recession, with customers torn over discretionary spending as it is, the proprietors say Target’s monumental cock-up has left them on the brink of bankruptcy. All this, despite receiving an A-grade food and safety rating from the local council the previous month.

How splendidly courageous of Top Shelf (an oxymoron if ever there was) to axe the low-level employee in charge of the labelling process. The person who should have been sacked was executive producer Laurie Clarke for allowing the operation to be run in such a manner that errors of that magnitude were possible. A bigger man would have walked.

It was all very well for Clarke to say afterwards that he was satisfied the mistake was caused by a single employee. Talk about duck-shovelling. It was as if Field Marshall Douglas Haig had risen from the dead. Surely if Clarke cannot be responsible for the thoroughness on an operation that seeks to discredit businesses or business practices, he’s not competent to be executive producer.

And it’s not as if this has been the only stuff-up from Target. A couple of years ago they caused near-hysteria by falsely claiming that formaldehyde levels in Kiwi clothes were hundreds of times higher than international standards. They were allegedly told (in writing) before the programme aired that the claims were
fundamentally wrong, but carried on regardless.

Sound familiar? It should at least smell familiar. A fish rots from the head down, after all.