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Cochran and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2021-066 (15 September 2021)

  • Susie Staley MNZM (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Paula Rose QSO
  • Margaret Cochran
Radio New Zealand Ltd
Radio New Zealand


[This summary does not form part of the decision.]

The Authority has not upheld a complaint about a promo for Checkpoint, broadcast after the 8am news on 11 May 2021, which included soundbites, showcasing the previous day’s news, concerning a supermarket stabbing in Dunedin. The complaint alleged the promo sensationalised news that was no longer current, suggesting another stabbing had occurred, and unnecessarily repeated scenes of violence when affected families were still suffering and children were likely to be listening. In its context, the Authority found the promo content was not likely to cause widespread undue offence or distress and did not breach the children’s interests standard. The programme information, violence and balance standards either did not apply or were not breached.

Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Programme Information, Children’s Interests, Violence, Balance

The broadcast

[1]  On 11 May 2021, following the 8am news, RNZ broadcast a promo for Checkpoint, which included soundbites, showcasing the previous day’s news, concerning a supermarket stabbing in Dunedin:

Lisa Owen:                  Kia ora Kiri, this is a terrible situation.

Kiri Hannifin:               Kia ora Lisa, no it absolutely is. It’s a shocker. So, a person in our store stabbed five people, including two of my team, who are both critically unwell and in hospital at the moment.

Witness:                      They took a guy out covered in blood, apparently it’s not his own blood.

Ms Owens:                  Timothy, I think you’ve managed to speak to some people there at the scene, what have they been saying to you?

Timothy Brown:           Everyone was extremely shocked, there was a look of trauma on people’s faces as they came out of the supermarket. One described the supermarket workers as taking the man down and disarming him during the attack.

Ms Owen:                   Checkpoint with me, Lisa Owen, 5 o’clock weekday evenings on RNZ National.

The complaint

[2]  Margaret Cochran complained the broadcast breached the good taste and decency, programme information, children’s interests, violence and balance standards:

  • ‘This advertisement had Lisa Owen’s strident, panicked, urgent voice, mentioning blood, stabbing etc etc from the night before’s broadcast.’
  • ‘This was in very bad taste using such an event as advertising. Family and participants were still suffering.’
  • ‘The information sounded current and it was yesterday’s. Intentionally sensationalising of news. Trumpian misinformation. Another stabbing?’
  • ‘The timing at 8am is when families are half listening and getting children to school.’
  • ‘This was an unnecessary repeat of a very violent incident with a dramatically urgent voice over.’
  • ‘Using yesterday’s news played as if today’s lacks balance.’

The broadcaster’s response

[3]  RNZ did not uphold Ms Cochran’s complaint:

  • ‘Trailers for news programmes on RNZ National typically contain the most interesting or newsworthy segments of the previous day’s broadcast in order to build interest in the next episode/edition of the programme.’
  • ‘The trailer discussed in [the] complaint featured Checkpoint’s coverage of the previous day’s supermarket stabbing in Dunedin. Several things mark it as a trailer, including its placement straight after the news (there is a trailer every hour – 24 hours a day), the use of the Checkpoint theme music and the standardised trailer announcement “Checkpoint[…] Weekdays from 5pm…”, etc.’
  • ‘…[O]ur audience is quite able of recognising a trailer when they hear one and are not misled, distressed or otherwise harmed by its content.’

The standards

[4]  The good taste and decency standard1 states current norms of good taste and decency should be maintained, consistent with the context of the programme. The standard is intended to protect audiences from content likely to cause widespread undue offence or distress, or undermine widely shared community standards.2

[5]  The children’s interests standard3 requires broadcasters to ensure children can be protected from broadcasts which might adversely affect them. Material likely to be considered under this standard includes violent content or themes, offensive language, social or domestic friction and dangerous, antisocial or illegal behaviour where such material is outside the expectations of the programme’s classification.4

[6]  We consider the good taste and decency and children’s interests standards are most relevant to the substance of the complaint, and have focused our consideration on these standards accordingly. We deal with the remaining standards briefly at paragraph [18].

Our analysis

[7]  We have listened to the broadcast and read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

[8]  We have also considered the important right to freedom of expression, which is our starting point. This includes the broadcaster’s right to offer a range of content and the audience’s right to receive it. We may only intervene and uphold a complaint where the broadcast has caused actual or potential harm at a level that outweighs the right to freedom of expression. For the reasons below, we have not found such harm in this case.

Good Taste and Decency

[9]  The question for the Authority under this standard is whether the content of the promo was likely to cause widespread undue offence or distress, notwithstanding the context.

[10]  The following contextual factors are relevant to this assessment:5

  • The broadcast was a promo for Checkpoint, a news programme, and aired immediately following the 8am news bulletin.
  • The target and likely audience was adult.
  • News, by its distinct nature, frequently contains disturbing and challenging material reflective of the world we live in.6 
  • The promo aired the day after a stabbing occurred in Dunedin, and included soundbites from Checkpoint’s coverage of it that night.
  • The promo included a soundbite from Ms Hannifin, clearly describing what happened in terms that would have enabled listeners to identify the tragic event from the day before, rather than a new event, as the subject matter of the broadcast.
  • The promo referred to the stabbing and someone being covered in blood that was not their own, but otherwise did not contain graphic detail.
  • The subject matter of the promo carried significant public interest, and served to notify listeners that RNZ had covered and would likely continue to cover it.
  • It is usual practice for RNZ to use soundbites from the previous day’s broadcast, in promoting its news programmes, and listeners would have likely interpreted the promo’s content accordingly.
  • It is likely many of the listeners who heard the promo had already heard the full interviews on the programme the night before.

[11]  Taken together, we consider these contextual factors mean the broadcast was unlikely to cause widespread offence or undermine community standards.

[12]  Therefore, we do not uphold the complaint under this standard.

Children’s Interests

[13]  The broadcast aired at a time when children could have been listening (before school), such that this standard applies.7

[14]  The contextual factors listed at paragraph [10] are also relevant when assessing complaints under this standard.8

[15]  The promo aired immediately following the 8am news bulletin. The Authority has previously found it is reasonable to expect adults will exercise discretion during news programming to regulate what their children are exposed to, due to its nature and the fact it frequently contains challenging content.9 Accordingly, any children who were listening to the promo were likely to have been accompanied by an adult, and the content was not outside audience expectations.

[16]  The Authority also recognises that it is not possible or practicable for broadcasters to shield children from all potentially unsuitable content.10

[17]  In the context, and given the lack of graphic detail in the promo, we do not uphold the complaint under this standard.

Remaining standards

[18]  The remaining standards either did not apply or were not breached:

  • Programme information:11 This standard rarely applies to radio, and the promo complained about was not outside audience expectations, for the reasons outlined at paragraph [10], such that an audience advisory was not required.12
  • Violence:13 This standard also rarely applies to radio,14 and the content in the promo was justified by the context and not outside audience expectations.
  • Balance:15 This standard only applies to news, current affairs or factual programmes that discuss controversial issues of public importance. The promo was not such a programme.

For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Susie Staley MNZM
Acting Chair
15 September 2021



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

1  Margaret Cochran’s original complaint to RNZ – 13 May 2021

2  RNZ’s decision on Ms Wilson’s complaint – 15 June 2021

3  Ms Cochran’s referral to the Authority – 17 June 2021

4  RNZ’s confirmation of no further comments – 2 August 2021

1 Standard 1 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice
2 Commentary: Good Taste and Decency, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 12
3 Standard 3 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice
4 Guideline 3b
5 Guideline 1a
6 See Lewis and MediaWorks TV Ltd, Decision No. 2017-069 at [14] and Moore and MediaWorks TV Ltd, Decision No. 2017-059 at [11]
7 Guideline 3a
8 Guideline 3c
9 See, for example, Pink and Radio New Zealand, Decision No. 202-036, Pepping and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2019-040, Lough and Television New Zealand, Decision No. 2017-080
10 Guidance: Children’s Interests, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 14
11 Standard 2 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice
12 Guideline 2a
13 Standard 4 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice
14 Guideline 4a
15 Standard 8 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice