BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Judge and Television New Zealand - 2020-27 (21 July 2020)

Members
  • Judge Bill Hastings (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Paula Rose QSO
  • Susie Staley MNZM
Dated
Complainant
  • Paul Judge
Number
2020-027
Programme
Seven Sharp
Channel/Station
TV One

Summary

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

An item on Seven Sharp featured a community hunting event for children under the age of 16. The item included footage of children using firearms, children carrying dead animals, and animal carcasses hanging by their hind legs. Taking into account the relevant contextual factors including the programme’s target audience and audience expectations, the Authority did not uphold a complaint that the item breached the good taste and decency, children’s interests and violence standards. The Authority noted that the item did not depict animals dying or being killed, and the content was clearly signposted by the presenters.

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


The broadcast

[1]  An episode on Seven Sharp featured a story about a hunting competition held by the Ōpōtiki community for children under the age of 16. The item was introduced by the hosts as follows:

Jeremy Wells: Now just a quick note to any senior officers in the country’s uh, PC police, you might want to get your pen and paper together to write a letter to the editor. Be prepared right now to be outraged.

Hillary Barry: Our next story involves kids, guns and killing on a large scale. Worse still, the community is right behind the initiative. Here’s Lucas De Jong.

[2]  Lucas De Jong started the report with the following statement:

The kids of Ōpōtiki hauling in two things: dead animals and huge smiles.

[3]  The item included footage of dead animals, and the children shooting and carrying dead animals. It also included footage of adults teaching children how to use firearms as well as interviews with members of the community, and the kids involved. The following comments were made:

Lucas De Jong: Hunting is a big part of life in the Eastern Bay, which means taking lives and watching kids do that can be hard to stomach… There’ll be some city people out there who’d be watching this story and will go, oh far-out there’s kids out there with guns and it scares me a bit and they’re killing magpies and things like that. What would you say to them?

Kid: I reckon if they came down from the city they’ll probably like it. It’s getting in the outdoors and we’re doing good stuff for the environment.

[4]  Hillary Barry concluded the item with the following comments:

And just repeating, they were killing pests. All of those animals were pests.

It’s good for the environment.

Pests. They are doing a good thing for the environment.

[5]  The item was broadcast on TVNZ 1 at approximately 7.00pm on 2 March 2020. In considering this complaint, we have viewed a recording of the broadcast and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

The complaint

[6]  Paul Judge complained that the item breached the good taste and decency, children’s interests and violence standards of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice1 for the following reasons:

Good taste and decency

  • ‘This programme included gratuitous images of dead animals being dragged along and hung up by their hind legs. These scenes were bloodthirsty, violent scenes and not necessary to the story.’
  • The warning given before the item was ‘condescending and flippant.’

Children’s interests

  • ‘This programme screened at prime time and included images not suitable for children. It also included children partaking [in] the violence and cruelty.’

Violence

  • ‘This programme showed violent images of animal death and cruelty, for example, the magpies being caught in a cage and then dragged out to be shot.’
  • Even though the death was not shown on air, the violence was ‘apparent’.
  • ‘This programme condoned the violence done to animals and glorified it without critical balance. This was reinforced by Hillary Barry’s comment at the end of the segment that they were ‘pest animals’, a term which ‘demonises’ them and ‘allows for the legitimised cruelty towards them.’

The broadcaster’s response

[7]  TVNZ did not uphold the complaint for the following reasons:

 Good taste and decency

  • TVNZ considered several contextual factors in concluding that the programme would not have caused widespread undue offence or distress, including:
    • Seven Sharp is an unclassified news and current affairs programme airing during a PGR timeband, with an adult target audience.
    • There is an expectation that parents exercise discretion around viewing such programmes with their children as news and current affairs programmes, by their very nature, often contain disturbing material.
    • ‘The story was preceded by an advisory that clearly contextualised the nature of the upcoming material. Viewers had the opportunity to regulate their own viewing and that of the children in their care.’
    • ‘The target animals were pests.’
    • ‘Some of the children interviewed expressed awareness of these pest animals’ impact on the environment, and accordingly the need to control their populations.’
    • ‘The hunt was a community event with significant community engagement.’
    • ‘There was a strong firearm safety component to the hunt, with the children receiving instruction from adults.’
  • The Authority has previously found that hunting and fishing programmes are acceptable where there is no undue depiction of cruelty and, recognising the sensitivity of some viewers, the story included no footage of animals being killed.

Children’s interests

  • Noting the importance of context when assessing complaints under this standard, TVNZ relied again upon the above contextual factors  as well as the following additional factors:
    • ‘The story had educational value for children.’ It showed a different way of life and perspective, highlighted the issue of pest animals, and referred to aspects of firearm safety.
    • The hunting event was organised for children and the participants were children. ‘Those featured in the story were enthusiastic and there was no indication that they were unwilling or unhappy to be part of the event.’

Violence

  • The story did not depict violence.
  • The story was preceded by an audience advisory giving viewers the opportunity to make alternative viewing choices for themselves and their children.
  • The footage was justified by its context.

The relevant standards

[8]  The purpose of the good taste and decency standard (Standard 1) is to protect audience members from viewing broadcasts that are likely to cause widespread undue offence or distress, or undermine widely shared community standards. The context in which content occurs and the wider context of the broadcast are relevant to assessing whether or not a broadcast has breached the standard.2

[9]  The children’s interests standard (Standard 3) requires broadcasters to ensure children can be protected from broadcasts which might adversely affect them. The purpose of the standard is to enable audiences to protect children from material that unduly disturbs them, is harmful, or is likely to impair their physical, mental, or social development.3

[10]  The purpose of the violence standard (Standard 4) is to protect audiences from unduly disturbing violent content. Broadcasters should exercise discretion in deciding the degree of graphic detail to be included, and an audience advisory should be used where appropriate.4

Our findings

[11]  The right to freedom of expression, including the broadcaster’s right to impart ideas and information and the public’s right to receive that information, is the starting point in our consideration of complaints. Equally important is our consideration of the level of actual or potential harm that may be caused by the broadcast. When we make this assessment, we also consider the value of the programme and the level of public interest in the subject matter. We may only interfere and uphold complaints where the limitation on the right to freedom of expression is reasonable and justified.

Relevant contextual factors

[12]  Context is crucial in determining complaints under the good taste and decency, children’s interests and violence standards and we consider the following contextual factors relevant under all three standards:

  • Seven Sharp is a news and current affairs programme. It has been running since 2013 and consistently airs at 7pm on weeknights. News and current affair programmes are unclassified.5 While Seven Sharp is unclassified, it airs during the PGR time-band.6    
  • Seven Sharp often includes content that some audiences may find challenging, and this story is consistent with the type of stories that audiences can expect to see on the programme.
  • The item was prefaced with the warning mentioned in paragraph [1] above and the content of the item was clearly signposted by the presenters.
  • The story is about a New Zealand community event that involved the children in the Ōpōtiki community. Hunting is a big part of the community.
  • While the footage included dead animals, children using firearms, a live magpie being removed from a trap and children carrying dead animals, there were no scenes of blood or of animals suffering, dying or being killed.
  • The item specified that the animals that were targeted were animals that were considered pests. Hunting and shooting pests are part of controlling their population, and lessening their impact on the environment. The children interviewed in the story demonstrated an awareness of this.
  • Children were a big part of the event. It was clear in the broadcast that the children had the choice of whether or not they wanted to participate in the hunting events.
  • The item also highlighted that firearm safety education for kids was part of the event.

Good taste and decency

[13]  We have previously acknowledged that hunting is a reality of life in New Zealand.7 We also acknowledge that the hunting of pests in particular seasons (to keep control of their population) is part of life in New Zealand communities like the Ōpōtiki community. As the Authority has previously found, hunting footage is generally acceptable in New Zealand, provided it does not depict undue cruelty.8 As noted in the contextual factors above, we do not consider the item to contain any material that depicts undue cruelty.

[14]  Where broadcasters take effective steps to inform audiences of the nature of the programme, we are less likely to find a breach.9 We consider that the subject matter of the item was clearly signposted by the hosts during the introduction to the story. Viewers and caregivers were made sufficiently aware of the content of the item, and therefore had a reasonable opportunity to make a decision about whether they wished to continue watching, or wished their children to continue watching.

[15]  In our view, there is public interest and high value in programmes which inform audiences about New Zealand community events with a large community engagement such as this. While not everyone would agree with hunting, or the use of firearms by children, the programme sheds light on the life and perspectives of different communities within the country.

[16]  In view of the contextual factors discussed above, we do not consider the item would likely cause widespread undue offence, or distress, or undermine widely shared community standards.

[17]  Therefore, we do not uphold the complaint under the good taste and decency standard.

Children’s interests

[18]  The Children’s Media Use research, recently published by the Broadcasting Standards Authority in collaboration with NZ On Air, identified that animal harm or torture was one of the most common types of content that children found upsetting.10 Accordingly, we agree that broadcasters must exercise care when depicting such material.

[19]  However, in view of the contextual factors above, and for the reasons outlined in our consideration of good taste and decency, we do not consider the item contained material which would adversely affect children. In particular, there were no scenes of blood, animals suffering or dying, or animals actually being killed.

[20]  The Authority has previously found that there is an expectation of adult supervision during unclassified news and current affairs programmes, which often contain challenging content (aimed at adults).11 We are also satisfied that the audience advisory provided was sufficient to allow for parents or guardians to make an informed choice about children’s exposure to the content.12

[21]  We therefore do not uphold the complaint under the children’s interests standard.

Violence

[22]  The violence standard guidelines recognise that disturbing material may sometimes feature in news and current affairs items as it reflects the world in which such events occur.13 The broadcaster’s obligation is to ensure that the material is justified by the context,14 is in the public interest, and that, where appropriate, an audience advisory is included.15

[23]  Taking into account the above contextual factors, we are satisfied that:

  • any reference to violence was justified by context
  • as noted at paragraph [15] the programme (including the content complained about) was in the public interest as it shed light on the lives and perspectives of different communities
  • the broadcaster exercised appropriate discretion in limiting the amount of graphic detail included and provided an adequate audience advisory as required under the violence standard.

[24]  We therefore do not uphold the complaint under the violence standard.

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

 

 

Judge Bill Hastings

Chair
21 July 2020

 

 Appendix

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

1  Paul Judge’s original complaint to TVNZ – 3 March 2020

2  TVNZ’s Response to Mr Judge – 24 March 2020

3  Mr Judge’s referral to the BSA – 15 April 2020

4  TVNZ’s confirmation of no further comments – 14 May 2020


1 The Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice was refreshed with effect from 1 May 2020. This complaint has been determined under the April 2016 version of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice as the relevant broadcast pre-dated the 1 May 2020 version.
2 Guideline 1a
3 Commentary: Children’s Interests, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 13
4 Guideline 4d
5 Guideline 2c
6 Guideline 2a
7 Andersson and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2016-043 at [20]
8 See for example Feral and MediaWorks TV Ltd, Decision No 2014-143 and Boyce and MediaWorks TV Ltd, Decision No 2015-103
9 Guideline 1b
10 Children’s Media Use Report (Broadcasting Standards Authority and NZ On Air, 2020) at 85 and 90
11 Stranaghan and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2017-033 at [16]
12 Guideline 3c
13 Guideline 4d
14 Guideline 4a
15 Guideline 4d