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FAIS compliant media?

05 October 2006 Angelo Coppola

The media should begin to take responsibility for giving global advice, and also begin to check their facts when writing stories about investing and pensions and general advice, because readers follow their advice.

The background to this comment - well, a reader recently read an article in the Huigenoot magazine about the tax-free nature of provident funds, and he started getting calls.

The scary thing is that this particular publication has one of the highest circulations in the country, because the articles in this magazine also generally appear in YOU and Drum, so the combined readership is anything over 600 000 people.

Imagine the responsibility and the pressure. Generally journalists would do the research, find the industry sources and write the article. In most cases they would verify the facts with the source and then the editor or sub-editor would take his or her delete button to the story. Sometimes, however there is no time to verify the facts.

Enough of that, though.

The problem is that no-one - read investor or pensioner - has recently reported a journalist to the FSB for providing advice that they followed and suffered as a result of.

There was a case several years ago where a journalist was providing generic advice, which investors followed and subsequently lost money, but that was pre-FAIS, and the journalist was taken off air. That was then.

As journalists it is our responsibility to ensure that the facts are correct. The financial journalists understand that they are not in a position to offer financial advice of any shade or colour, but it doesn't stop the industry commentators on reporting on trends in the markets and asset classes.

Unfortunately investors will look for opportunities to get to-good-to-be-true returns and when this doesn't occur they look for a scapegoat, firstly they will stop at their financial advisors' door and if the IFA has done all the necessary research and profile building they will turn their attention elsewhere - the media.

Perhaps it will take one civil court case where an investor sues a journalist for damages on perceived advice given before any action is taken?

Editor's thoughts:
* If you have any thoughts on this subject please feel free to email me.
* Should the media go through a FAIS course a - light version - or is it really a case of let the investor beware?

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