BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Rescare New Zealand and Television New Zealand Ltd - 1994-073

  • I W Gallaway (Chair)
  • J R Morris
  • L M Loates
  • R A Barraclough
  • Rescare New Zealand


The House on Grey Street was the title of the documentary broadcast on Television

One at 8.35pm on Tuesday 8 February. The programme dealt with the intellectually

handicapped and focussed on a group of four men who were living together in a house

in the community.

Rescare New Zealand complained to Television New Zealand Ltd that the programme

was unfair and biased in that it portrayed institutions as "evil and bad" while the IHC

was "without fault". It said that brief visuals of a ward at the Kimberley Centre

which had been closed for three years was one example of the programme's bias.

Denying that the programme investigated the relative merits of institutional care as

compared to integration, TVNZ declined to uphold the complaint. It said that the

programme dealt with one aspect of the care for the intellectually handicapped and

showed how four men were successfully living in the community. Dissatisfied with

TVNZ's response, Rescare referred the complaint to the Broadcasting Standards

Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

For the reasons given below, the Authority declined to uphold the complaint.


The members have viewed a tape of the item complained about and have read the

correspondence (summarised in the Appendix). As is its usual practice, the Authority

has determined the complaint without a formal hearing.

A documentary dealing with the intellectually handicapped was broadcast by TVNZ

on Television One on 8 February 1994 at 8.35pm. Titled The House on Grey Street ,

it focused on four men who were living together in a house in the community after

having been previously in institutional care.

Rescare New Zealand, an organisation which represents people with an intellectual

disability who are being cared for, complained to TVNZ that the programme was

unfair and unbalanced in its presentation. In particular, it objected to the implication

that life in "institutional" care centres was an unsatisfactory option for intellectually

disabled people and that they would be better off living in the community.

TVNZ reported that it considered the complaint against standards G4 and G6 of the

Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. Those standards require broadcasters:

G4  To deal justly and fairly with any person taking part or referred to in

any programme.

G6  To show balance, impartiality and fairness in dealing with political

matters, current affairs and all questions of a controversial nature.

At the outset, it observed that the screening of the programme coincided with the

IHC's appeal week and it was to make the public both more aware of and more

sympathetic towards the thousands of intellectually handicapped people living in

New Zealand. TVNZ explained that the intent was to show that, where possible,

intellectually handicapped people were entitled to be integrated into the community.

It reported that the research conducted by the programme's makers revealed that the

intellectually handicapped had been done a great disservice in the past by not being

offered the opportunity to be integrated into the community. It also noted that public

prejudice was a factor in the slow move towards integration.

Aspects of the Programme allegedly in breach of standards

Rescare argued that it was unfair to make comparisons between institutional care and

community living, since many of those in institutions would find it difficult to live in

the wider community. It believed that families with intellectually disabled family

members would much rather have their sons and daughters cared for in a sheltered

environment than to be exposed to the problems of living in the community.

Observing that since intellectually handicapped people are usually mentally deficient

from birth, in Rescare's view they lacked the ability to abide by a code of conduct and

should not be exposed to situations which they may be incapable of handling and

which may result in them being incarcerated in jail. It argued that it was unfair to

compare institutional care with community living since, for many of those living in

institutions, life in the community would be impossible and it was probable that many

would become isolated.

TVNZ explained that the documentary was confined to the portrayal of the four men

who made the transition from institutional to community care and how they had

benefited. It noted that integration was not portrayed as problem-free. It believed it

was legitimate to make the comparison between the present lifestyle of the four men

and that of Jimmy, a resident at Lake Alice Hospital and to show the basic facilities at

Kimberley Centre (where two of the men featured had lived, one for 33 years) much

as they were when they lived there. It noted that it was specifically stated on the

programme that care today at Kimberley was far better than it had been when the men

were living there but that the scenes filmed at Kimberley accurately portrayed life as it


Rescare suggested that the programme contained a number of deceptions. It objected

to the opening statement that one man had been locked away for 20 years in a timeless

vacuum, claiming that it was simply erroneous to suggest that people were abandoned.

It maintained that most families stayed in touch with their children and followed their


TVNZ rejected the claim that it was inaccurate to state that one man had been locked

away, reporting as a fact that the man had indeed been locked away for twenty years.

In addition it reported ample evidence that abandonment occurred and not

infrequently. TVNZ stated that one of the people filmed at Kimberley had been taken

there for a weekend and never picked up, and reported that health workers and

psychologists provided other examples. At the same time TVNZ acknowledged that

some people had been abandoned to institutions in order to relieve the stress on their


Referring to the footage which showed the bleakness of the living conditions of

Kimberley Centre, Rescare revealed that the ward shown had been closed for some

years. It observed that since none of the occupied wards containing single bedrooms

or partitioned areas were shown, viewers would have been left with a biased

impression. It also objected to the inclusion of Lake Alice Hospital as an example of

the type of institution which cared for men like those featured, noting it was a

psychiatric institution and different from the psychopedic institutions set up to care

for the intellectually disabled. It believed that the scene which showed only one

person sitting in the communal lounge was an inaccurate representation of the true

situation and that staff would attest to that fact.

In response, TVNZ pointed out that its footage of the Kimberley Centre showed the

type of accommodation that two of the men had lived in during their time at the

centre. However, TVNZ observed, the programme showed present residents in what

it described as an obviously happy and supportive environment and included a scene

where some were doing their own cooking. The need and place for institutions was

stated explicitly, it added.

Rescare expressed its disapproval of the comments made by the representatives from

the IHC who appeared to adopt the view that brain damaged people should learn to be

responsible for their behaviour. Rescare argued that choosing to pretend that an

intellectual handicap did not exist was irresponsible and damaging, and that many

intellectually handicapped people required life time care.

TVNZ responded that the IHC staff shared the view of experts worldwide that, where

possible, intellectually handicapped people deserved the chance to live alongside the

rest of society and the programme had shown how a group of men had benefited from

that move. It noted that while the programme was screened in conjunction with the

IHC appeal, IHC had no editorial control over its content, and those representatives

interviewed had been chosen because they were acknowledged experts in their field.

Rescare also objected to the comparisons made between the standard of care given in

the institution compared to the freedom enjoyed by the four men in Grey Street.

Acknowledging that indeed the men had a more enjoyable lifestyle, Rescare argued

that this portrayal was at the expense of those more disabled, those unable to vocalise

their wishes or whose inappropriate behaviour precluded them from living in the

community. For those individuals, Rescare observed, institutional living was the only

option. Rescare also objected to the claim that the four men featured had made the

transition from total dependence to independence. It observed that in many well-run

institutions, people did have a choice about day to day matters. Further, it

commented that the four men – described as independent – were in fact very dependent

on their care-giver, who supervised them constantly. In addition, it noted, they were

supervised at work and one of the men was under constant surveillance after he had

assaulted a young boy.

TVNZ pointed to the evidence in the programme and the accompanying research

which showed that compared to the men in Grey Street, people in institutional care

had few choices. For instance, it noted that the men in Grey Street had choices about

when to get up and when to have meals, describing these as small but significant

symbols of the independence they have achieved. It disagreed that the men were

constantly supervised, noting that the care-giver was at home until 9.00am when three

of the men left for their day's activities, and did not return until 4.00pm. None of the

three was supervised as they went out for the day.

In conclusion, Rescare explained that many of its members had found the programme

distressing because it had not told the whole truth and had portrayed the institutions

as they were for some, 20 years ago. It maintained that the programme was neither

factual nor current.

Quoting from a letter received after the broadcast from the management at Kimberley

Centre, TVNZ agreed with the management that:

The film was not about Kimberley Centre but rather about the options and

possibilities available to people with intellectual disability with a strong

message that even if an individual has spent many years in an institution they

can make the transition.

TVNZ added that the programme did not criticise the excellent work done at

Kimberley but instead highlighted the fact that people with intellectual disabilities had

a right to choose to live in the community and that such an option could provide an

improved quality of life. TVNZ noted that Kimberley's staff accepted that the

portrayal of the now disused Ward 6 was because it had formerly been home to two

of the men and did not feel that it was an unfair portrayal.

TVNZ concluded that since the staff at Kimberley did not feel it had been unfairly

portrayed there had been no breach of standard G4 of the Television Code of

Broadcasting Practice. With respect to standard G6, it believed that the programme as

broadcast was fair and balanced. It emphasised that it was not intended to be a story

about the intellectually handicapped overall, but about the experience of a group of

men who had been integrated into the community and, who were, in spite of some

problems, benefiting from the opportunity.

The Authority's Findings

In the Authority's view, the main message of the programme was that integration into

the community was humane and the best option for many intellectually handicapped

people. It provided them with a better and fairer chance at a relatively normal life and,

while the process was not without its problems, including prejudice from others in the

community, many of those currently living in institutions were capable of making the

transition. By way of illustration, the Authority noted, life in the institutions was

seen as limiting and less pleasant than life for those out in the community.

One of the principle obstacles to the successful rehabilitation of former residents was

seen to be the prejudice and ignorance of the rest of the community. In the

Authority's view, the programme sought to dissipate some preconceptions by

showing the men working in the community and interacting with other people. They

were presented as individuals with valuable lives and distinctive personalities, warmly

cared for by a care-giver who allowed them a degree of independence and opportunity

to make their own decisions that they had not been given in the institutional


The Authority acknowledged that a comparison was made between community care

and institutional care. The sombre picture of the lounge at Lake Alice Hospital and

the lonely, stark wards of Kimberley Centre, where two of the men had been

previously housed, provided a graphic counterpoint to the family-style life in the

community. However, it believed the point was made clearly that community care

was not an option for all intellectually handicapped people in care. It considered that

the programme sought support for community care on the basis that for many, it was

better than institutional care.

The Authority noted the concerns raised by Rescare and its members when it was

alleged that only token acknowledgment had been given to the fact that community

care was not problem-free. Indeed, the Authority sympathised with Rescare when it

complained that the programme was somewhat unfair in that it did not adequately

acknowledge that the standard of care in the institutions has improved markedly since

the time when the two men were residents. It considered that the programme should

have made clear that the wards which had been filmed were now closed and that

residents were now given a degree of independence and a quality of life that had not

been the case in previous years. The Authority also considered that it could have

been more clearly explained that the comparison between Kimberley and the home

environment was to compare the past with the present – not the present with the

present, and that institutional care was now more enlightened.

Nevertheless, while such matters could have been included in the programme, in view

of the programme's narrow focus, the Authority did not believe the portrayal of the

Kimberley Centre was unfair to it and declined to uphold the complaint that there was

a breach of standard G4. In reaching that decision, the Authority took account of the

letter to TVNZ from the Service Manager at Kimberley Centre who reported that

although a small number of parents and staff persisted in their view that Kimberley

Centre had been portrayed negatively, others believed that the documentary was

balanced. In giving her support for the broadcast, the manager added:

It was not in our opinion intended to denigrate the excellent work being done at

Kimberley Centre but rather to highlight the fact that people with an

intellectual disability have the right to choose and access alternative living

options and that indeed such options can provide an improved quality of life

to that formally enjoyed in an institutional setting. This fact being borne out

by in the documentary by comments made by parents of those people


Although the Authority believed that it was open to interpret the programme as

critical of institutional care, it was of the view that the focus was on the success of the

transition for the four men featured. At the same time, the problems faced by the men

were revealed, including some of the difficulties experienced with anti-social

behaviour. Nevertheless they were shown to be capable of living in the community

(under the guidance of their care-giver) and were clearly enjoying the opportunity that


The Authority concluded that although Rescare's views had not been sought, there

was sufficient balancing material to enable viewers to realise that institutional care was

still the only viable option for some intellectually handicapped, while others, like the

men featured, were capable of semi-independent living which provided fulfilment and

satisfaction. As it concurred with TVNZ that those matters were the important

aspects of the programme, the Authority declined to uphold the complaint that the

programme was lacking in balance.


For the reasons set forth above, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint

that the programme The House on Grey Street broadcast by Television New

Zealand Ltd on 8 February 1994 was in breach of standards G4 and G6 of the

Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Iain Gallaway
1 September 1994


Rescare New Zealand's Complaint to Television New Zealand Limited

In a letter dated 4 March 1994, the Secretary of Rescare New Zealand, Ms Valerie

Newman, complained to Television New Zealand Ltd about the documentary The

House on Grey Street broadcast on Television One at 8.30pm on February 8.

Describing the programme as unfair, disconcerting and biased and containing

misrepresentation, Ms Newman said that it portrayed institutions as "evil and bad

places" while the IHC was shown as "without fault". Specifically, Ms Newman

continued, after some hours of filming at the Kimberley Centre in Levin, the only

material screened was a shot of ward 6 which had been closed for three years.

Ms Newman said that she was well acquainted with Kimberley where her son had

lived for 12 years and she said the person shown "vacuuming" was not displaying

unusual behaviour for him. She described the broadcast comments from Mr Angus

Capie of the IHC as lacking in compassion and, she stated, Kimberley, Braemar and

Templeton were centres of excellence which housed about 1500 IH people. Many

residents were either more behaviourally disturbed or multi-handicapped than IHC

could cope with.

Expressing regret at the dismantling of the system of training staff to work in the

institutions, Ms Newman said New Zealand was the only country which offered

separate facilities for the IH. She concluded:

We formally request the opportunity to portray to the New Zealand public a

fair and balanced look at institutions.

TVNZ's Response to the Complaint

Treating the complaint as an informal one, in a letter dated 31 March 1994 TVNZ said

the programme had neither been a study of the IHC nor had it compared the life of an

intellectually handicapped person in institutions with similar people in the

community. It continued:

It was simply and insight into the residents of a community house and their

relationship with their neighbourhood. There was also no indication that was a

perfect option.

Further Correspondence

Dissatisfied with TVNZ's response, in a letter dated 27 April 1994 Ms Newman on

Rescare's behalf referred the complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority.

When it was asked for its comments on the referral, TVNZ explained in a letter dated

2 May 1994 that Rescare's complaint had not been treated as a formal one and asked

whether the Authority now wished for TVNZ to treat it as such. The Authority

advised TVNZ that, in view of the correspondence leading up to the complaint, it

believed that it was appropriate to do so on this occasion.

TVNZ's Response to the Formal Complaint

TVNZ advised Rescare of its Complaints Committee's decision in a letter dated 1

June 1994. It reported that it had assessed the complaint under standards G4 and G6

of the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

TVNZ said that the programme which told the story of four men with intellectual

handicaps who were now leading relatively independent lives in the community was

designed to make the general public more aware of, and more sympathetic towards,

intellectually handicapped people. Moreover, it had involved extensive research.

TVNZ explained:

The general impression gleaned from the research was that the intellectually

handicapped who could have been integrated into the community may have been

done a great disservice in the past in not being offered that opportunity. It was

also clear that fear of public prejudice against the intellectually handicapped was

a factor in the slow move towards integration.

The programme clearly aimed to help break down that prejudice.

Focussing on one small group, TVNZ said that the programme reported that the

integration had not been without problems.

TVNZ referred under 12 headings to the specific aspects of the complaint made by

Rescare when it had quoted the programme's script:

1. "... the programme is a constant comparison ..."

Referring to that aspect of the complaint, TVNZ said the lifestyle of the four men was

compared to that of Jimmy who lived at Lake Alice Hospital. As two of the men

featured (Alan and Clifford) had spent lengthy periods at Kimberley Centre, some

material was shot there. TVNZ explained:

Kimberley today is very different from the Kimberley of the past. This was

stated in the programme. Staff at the centre readily acknowledged that care

today is far better than was the case when Alan and Clifford were there. The

premises were crowded by today's standards and the facilities were basic. It

was the staff at Kimberley who pointed to the sort of dormitory that Alan had

lived in.

The programme had shown material to illustrate Kimberley as Alan and Clifford

would have known it.

2. "... opening statements ..."

As the next aspect of the complaint Rescare had expressed concern about the phrase

"hidden institutions". It had been used, TVNZ said, as institutions were usually well

away from residential communities and:

Experts added to this impression by telling the programme makers that there had

in the past been a deliberate policy of keeping the intellectually handicapped at a

distance - not because they were dangerous, but because of the public prejudice

they attracted.

The [Complaints] Committee agreed that the comment reinforced the message

about public prejudice and was therefore valid.

3. "... Jimmy Kelly ..."

TVNZ agreed with Rescare that the programme had portrayed the emptiness of his

life after being "locked away for 20 years".

4. "... abandonment ..."

TVNZ said it accepted the evidence that abandonment occurred not infrequently.

5. "... Mrs Cruikshank ..."

Mrs Cruikshank, the young mother featured, was referring to family experience when

she said life had been tougher for handicapped people 30 years ago.

6. "... people have choice ..."

The programme showed, TVNZ maintained, that the men living in the community

house had more choice than they would have had in an institution.

7. "... care-giver who supervises them critically ..."

TVNZ reported that the care-giver shown did not supervise the men between 9.00am

- 4.00pm.

8. "... Kimberley Centre ..."

Life in the community centre, TVNZ insisted, differed from that at Kimberley. It


It was noted by the [Complaints] Committee that the programme took care to

also show present residents cooking in clearly improved surroundings and in

what was obviously a happy and supportive environment. The programme also

stated explicitly that there will always be a place and a need for institutions.

9. "... Angus Capie and Olive Webb ..."

TVNZ remarked:

Angus Capie and Olive Webb share the view of experts worldwide: that

intellectually handicapped people, where possible, deserve a chance to live

alongside the rest of us in society.

The programme showed how a group of men have benefited from such a move.

It was always intended that "The House on Grey Street" would screen in

association with the IHC appeal. However the programme was not made for

IHC and IHC had no editorial control whatsoever. Olive Webb and Angus

Capie were chosen primarily because they are acknowledged nationally as

experts in their field.

10. "... choosing to pretend that intellectual handicap does not exist ..."

TVNZ denied that the programme had adopted that approach.

11. "... inappropriate behaviour..."

In the requirements for balance, the programme acknowledged that there were

problems associated with integration. However, it was also shown the benefits for the

men outweighed the costs to the community.

12. "... terminology ..."

TVNZ argued that the correct terminology was used throughout the programme and

reported that it received a letter from the Service Manager at Kimberley. It then

quoted her opinion that the programme was balanced. TVNZ expressed the view that

the letter disclosed that those at Kimberley did not share the complainant's view that

the Centre had been dealt with unfairly.

TVNZ concluded:

The [Complaints] Committee similarly felt the programme quite properly

contrasted the lifestyle enjoyed by the men in Grey Street with their past

experiences and that no person or institution was treated unfairly in the process.

G4 was not found to have been breached.

As far as G6 is concerned, it was the committee's opinion that the programme

as broadcast was fair and balanced. It was not a story about the intellectually

handicapped overall, but about the experiences of a group of men who had been

integrated into the community. The occasional problems were emphasised to

show that it is not a trouble-free process, but the benefits were clear.

In addition it acknowledged that the programme might be upsetting to those

opposed to integration but questioned whether the complainant was confusing

the message with the messenger.

Appended to the reply was a copy of the full letter sent by the Service Manager

at Kimberley.

Rescare's Complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority

Dissatisfied with TVNZ's decision, in a letter dated 27 June 1994 Ms Newman on

Rescare's behalf referred the complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under

s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

She began

For those who have "institutionalised" family members, this programme is

distressing because it does not tell the whole truth but seeks to portray what

might have occurred in institutions 20 years or so ago, for some residents.

It is not factual and it is not current.

She argued that a programme should be broadcast to illustrate the positive side of

institutional living as intellectually disabled people with difficult behaviour benefited

from structured living in an institution. Indifferent or bad care, she observed, was not

the prerogative of the institution.

TVNZ's Response to the Authority

As is its practice, the Authority sought the broadcaster's response to the complaint.

Its letter is dated 28 June 1994 and TVNZ's reply, 1 July.

TVNZ had little to say other than to repeat:

We simply observe that the documentary was not an investigation into the

relative merits of institutionalised care and integration.

It was about integration - and relied in the main on the examples of four men

who are successfully living in the community. The subject of care for the

intellectually handicapped is many faceted and it is no breach of programme

standards to select just one of those and explore it in some detail in a


Rescare's Final Comment to the Authority

When asked to make a brief final comment on TVNZ's response, in a letter dated 12

July 1994, Rescare maintained that had TVNZ screened a documentary on four young

men who had been integrated into wider society (as it claimed), then Rescare would

not be challenging them. However, it argued, the programme was a blatant series of

comparisons coupled with a one-sided and distorted view of institutional living. It

repeated that the whole truth needed to be told.