BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Brady and TVWorks Ltd - 2012-007

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Chris Brady
3 News
TVWorks Ltd
TV3 (TVWorks)

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
3 News – reported on the purchase of a bluefin tuna at auction for nearly one million dollars – item contained footage of fish’s head being removed and a number of tuna being sliced and filleted – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency and violence standards

Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – killing animals for food is a fact of life – images were not gratuitous and would not have offended most viewers in the context of a news item – not upheld

Standard 10 (violence) – filleting fish did not amount to “violence” for the purposes of the standard – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision. 


[1]  An item on 3 News, broadcast on TV3 at 6pm on 6 January 2012, reported on the sale at an auction in Japan of a single bluefin tuna, for nearly one million dollars. Footage was shown of the fish’s head being removed, and then the fish being sliced in half. Footage of other fish being sliced or filleted was also briefly shown.

[2]  Chris Brady made a formal complaint to TVWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the item was “offensive to everyone who believes that all animals deserve to be treated with dignity and respect”, and that a warning should have preceded the item to alert viewers to the “appalling images”. The complainant argued that the footage showed “gratuitous violence” and was unnecessary in the context of the story, which focused on the price paid for the fish.

[3]  The issue is whether the item breached Standards 1 (good taste and decency) and 10 (violence) of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[4]  The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

Did the item threaten current norms of good taste and decency?

[5]  Standard 1 states that broadcasters should observe standards of good taste and decency. The primary objective of this standard is to protect against the broadcast of sexual material, nudity, coarse language or violence.1 The Authority will also consider the standard in relation to any broadcast that portrays or discusses material in a way that is likely to cause offence or distress.2 In this respect, the standard is intended to ensure that programmes reflect community norms of decorum and civility.

[6]  When we consider an alleged breach of good taste and decency, we take into account the context of the broadcast. On this occasion, the relevant contextual factors include:

  • 3 News was broadcast at 6pm during children’s viewing times
  • it was an unclassified news programme
  • the programme’s adult target audience
  • news programmes are unlikely to appeal to child viewers
  • the item was not preceded by a warning.

[7]  TVWorks agreed that “some of our more sensitive viewers with strong opinions on the treatment of animals may have found the butchering of the record-breaking tuna offensive”. However, it said a warning was considered unnecessary as there was a teaser for the item and a lengthy introduction to the story by the newsreader, which gave viewers an opportunity to make a different viewing choice if they were likely to be offended by the sale of a dead tuna fish. It considered that the butchering of a fish that was already dead was unlikely to disturb a significant number of viewers as fish were a widely accepted source of food in New Zealand, and noted that, in any case, most of the story focused on the price paid for the fish.

[8]  We agree with the broadcaster. The item showed standard images of fish being filleted and prepared to be sold as food. The killing of animals for food is a fact of life. We consider that the visual illustrations of fish being filleted were not unexpected or gratuitous in the context of a story about a very large fish being caught and sold. We do not consider the images required an express warning, as the introduction to the story gave viewers an indication of its likely content.

[9]  Taking into account relevant contextual factors, in particular that the item was part of an unclassified news programme targeted at adults, we find that most viewers would not have been offended by the images, and that the images did not threaten current norms of good taste and decency. We therefore decline to uphold the complaint under Standard 1. 

Did the broadcaster exercise adequate care and discretion when dealing with the issue of violence?

[10]  Standard 10 states that broadcasters should exercise care and discretion when dealing with the issue of violence.

[11]  The complainant argued that the footage showed “gratuitous violence” and was unnecessary in the context of the story, which focused on the price paid for the fish.

[12]  The Authority has previously determined that the killing of crayfish in preparation for making food did not amount to “violence” for the purposes of Standard 10.3 In our view, the same reasoning applies to showing tuna fish being filleted in preparation for being sold as food.

[13]  We therefore find that Standard 10 does not apply in the circumstances and we decline to uphold this part of the complaint.


For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Peter Radich
27 March 2012


The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:

1                  Chris Brady’s formal complaint – 9 January 2012

2                 TVWorks’ response to the complaint – 9 January 2012

3                 Chris Brady’s referral to the Authority – 24 January 2012

4                 TVWorks’ response to the Authority – 3 February 2012

1Turner and TVNZ, Decision No. 2008-112

2Practice Note: Good Taste and Decency (Broadcasting Standards Authority, November, 2006)

3Irwin and TVNZ, Decision No. 2010-087