Updated 15 Nov 2011 at 1.14 pm
Received from Ahmad:
On Saturday night I went to the Otago Daily Times “Big Night In” – a “free community concert” hosted by the Otago Daily Times as part of their 150th anniversary celebrations. Like many who attended I enjoyed much of the night. Of course when you haven’t paid anything you can’t really complain, but that’s exactly where this story begins.
Promoted for months by the Otago Daily Times as their big birthday bash, entry to this “free community concert” was by way of gold coin donation to charity. All good. That is until you look at which charities the money went to.
On Friday 26 August the ODT said that “the concert is free, but ticketed, with gold-coin donations being collected for the KidsCan charitable trust”. On Saturday 1 October the ODT said “entry is by free ticket only. Gold-coin donations will be accepted at the gate for the KidsCan charitable trust and Lions club”. Subsequently, the information being provided stated that “the gold coin donation will go to three areas: 50% KidsCan, 10% Dunedin North Lions Club, 40% Big Night In Charities Ltd”. And finally the admission from the ODT that has me most concerned on Saturday 5 November and repeated on Saturday 12 November that “entry is free, with gold coin donations collected at the gate. The KidsCan child cancer fund will get 50% of money collected, Dunedin Lions service clubs will get 10%, and 40% will go to Big Night In Charities Limited, a not-for-profit company, to help offset the cost of the concert.”
Why on earth should those attending a “free community concert” hosted by the ODT as part of their birthday celebrations be helping to “offset the cost of the concert”. With sponsors including Deloitte (associate sponsor) and the Dunedin City Council (partner and contributor of $70,000 of ratepayers’ money towards this event), surely one should be able to assume that the full costs would have been met by those promoting this “free community concert”?
And who exactly are “The Big Night In Charities Limited” anyway? They are a registered company with the two Directors listed as Doug Kamo (the Artistic Director/Producer of ODT’s Big Night In), and Stuart Walker (Musical Director of Big Night In). James Smith (ODT Circulation Manager) says it is a “not-for-profit company”, and that “money allocated to BNICL is used to help offset costs of the free community concert” (direct quote).
Now I fully appreciate that not every dollar I donate to any chosen charity will actually reach those in need due to running costs of the organisation. However in this case I do not believe the ODT have been completely up front about the funding for this event.
Despite what the ODT had been publicising for months, the concert was not actually free. It was low cost, certainly, but not free, given that part of my entry donation was to offset the concert costs. I (like everyone else) believed that I was attending a concert paid for by the Otago Daily Times and other sponsors, and making a genuine donation to charity as part of the condition of entry. Is giving money to a not-for-profit company to stage the concert a true “donation to charity”? I believe most would consider it not to be.
I believe that the Otago Daily Times owes its readership an explanation about the true nature of funding for this event. I feel deceived by the marketing of this concert and I know of others who feel similarly. I have spoken to representatives from The Southern Trust and Otago Community Trust to pass on my concerns and they seemed genuinely surprised by these revelations. Both appeared to believe they were contributing to a local organisation – which technically they were because Big Night In Charities Ltd is registered to a Dunedin address.
The Otago Daily Times should also, in my opinion, reveal to the people of Otago where the money donated to KidsCan will be spent. On Saturday night the $12,000 cheque was presented to a KidsCan representive who the MC announced was from Auckland. Will the money be spent in our region? And if not – why not? Why would the newspaper serving the Otago region for 150 years use grants from local charities (The Southern Trust, Otago Community Trust, and Bendigo Valley Foundation) to hold a big birthday party only to raise funds for a charity to spend outside of the region? Surely it would be fitting for such funds to be spent in the region that the ODT serves?
I don’t mean to be a 150th anniversary party pooper but these questions do need to be addressed. I have no competing interests to declare and am simply a proud Otago resident and long time reader of the ODT.
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Posted by Elizabeth Kerr