Disclosure is everything in the financial world, from buying shares to investing in property and planning for retirement. So why did the Money special on the Nine Network last night fail that important test?

Georgie Parker hosted the program which featured four stories and a studio audience with some conservative advice and discussion about personal finance. It was done in conjunction with ACP’s Money magazine (which was spun-off from the original TV program a decade or so ago).

Sitting next to Ms Parker was Paul Clitheroe, the man who hosted the original series, has made this sort of advice program very successful and who was a founder of ipac Securities. That link wasn’t disclosed nor, more importantly, were the links between ipac and the program’s sponsor, AXA Asia Pacific, a leading insurance and superannuation group.

According to a statement from AXA in July 2002, it paid $205 million for ipac. Here’s the ipac website with Paul Clitheroe featuring prominently. Here’s a page from the AXA website: finding the relationship with ipac is hard, but this page has it in small print.

Nowhere mentioned in the program last night were the links, if any, current, or past, between AXA, Mr Clitheroe and ipac. Even the graphics for the program last night featured AXA blue, red and white similar to the blue in the graphics in AXA ads.

Here’s the Money website at ACP Magazines, where Mr Clitheroe is prominent. Nor was there any detailing of any relationship on the magazine website at Ninemsn, but readers, when they clicked through to a story on last night’s special, could see that they could register for the “AXA Money Seminars with Paul Clitheroe”. And in newspaper ads this morning for the seminars, Paul Clitheroe is described as a “well-known and expert financial commentator”.

But as we have seen, he is also described on the ipac website as “ipac founding director”. No mention of any current or former role at ipac on the website. So what is he, an independent financial commentator, or a financial commentator who used to be the founding director of ipac or still is working at ipac?

Perhaps because on the face of it, last night’s Money special was strongly branded as an AXA initiative: AXA is sponsoring the seminars and sponsored last night’s program in the hope of attracting more business.

There was no mention of the program or the seminars being “public information” or in the “public interest”. The ads were commercial hard sell and the newspaper ads are urging those interested to “register now and attend the Money seminar to recieve (sic) AXA’s free Step-by-step Guide to Financial Advice CD-ROM.”

In fact, the Nine program had the strong whiff of one of those programs where product placement and advertiser interest are foremost in the minds of the Network with disclosure and independence of advice running a distant second.

Worse still for Nine, TV viewers recognised Money for what it was, boring. It finished fourth in the 9.30-9.35pm to 10.30-10.35pm timeslot with just 564,000 viewers. Ahead of it were Enough Rope with Andrew Denton on 833,000 on the ABC, Criminal Minds on Seven with 1.242 million. The American version of The Biggest Loser on Ten averaged 732,000. Money ranks with The Great Weight Debate and Mothers In Law as one off failures for Nine.

Peter Fray

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