BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Judge and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2020-108 (21 December 2020)

Members
  • Judge Bill Hastings (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Paula Rose QSO
  • Susie Staley MNZM
Dated
Complainant
  • Paul Judge
Number
2020-108
Channel/Station
TV One

Summary

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

The Authority has not upheld a complaint about an episode of New Zealand Hunter Adventures featuring two groups of duck shooters in New Zealand. The episode included footage of people, including young people, using firearms, shooting ducks, celebrating successful shots, holding and plucking dead ducks, and showcasing hunting gear and equipment. Taking into account the relevant contextual factors including the programme’s classification, target audience and audience expectations, the broadcast did not breach the good taste and decency, children’s interests or violence standard.

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


The broadcast

[1]  On 19 July 2020, at 3.40pm, an episode of New Zealand Hunter Adventures featured two groups of duck shooters in New Zealand. The episode was introduced as follows:

Willie Duley:    Over a century ago, a range of big game animals were introduced by early settlers throughout New Zealand for sport and a source of food…Today, the recreational hunter plays the single biggest role, maintaining numbers of these majestic game animals and a sustainable balance with the environment.

Having been taught from an early age how to hunt and gather by my father, Greg, I thrive on the fitness, physical and mental challenges encountered while hunting the vast New Zealand backcountry. And I'm extremely proud to provide for my family 100% organic free range meats with full traceability from mountain to dinner plate…This is NZ Hunter Adventures.

[2]  The episode also included the following statements:

Chris Ziesler:   We're going to do safety first. Obviously a big emphasis on that.

Willie Duley:    Hold it up…So, the drakes have the nice green head, orange feet, nice colours on the wing. Good stuff…

Spud Morrow: I've always loved hunting…Not so much for the actual taking of the game, but for just all of the emotions and sensations that it evokes…[I]t's about where we are, experienc[ing] the journey, but more than anything else, the people you get to share it with…and we all have that one thing in common, that's our genuine love of the outdoors and the environment that we love to play in. And, the food, it’s always about the food…

[3]  The episode included footage of people, including young people, learning to use and using firearms, shooting ducks, celebrating successful shots, holding and plucking dead ducks, and showcasing hunting gear and equipment.

The complaint

[4]  Paul Judge complained the episode breached the good taste and decency, children’s interests and violence standards for the following reasons:

  • The programme showed grotesque, gratuitous and graphic violence towards animals.
  • It featured a group of duck shooters killing ducks and showed the graphic killing of ducks on screen, not just once but many times.
  • It showed the duck shooters laughing and making gleeful comments at the killing of each duck. The fact that we live in a society that eats meat and hunts is ‘no excuse to glorify the killing of both introduced and native waterfowl by callous hunters with zero empathy for their prey’.
  • It also showed, at one point, a hunter holding a dead duck up to the camera by the neck.
  • It contained segments of infomercial-type material for the Hunting and Fishing chain with a hunting expert talking about the types of shot used to kill the ducks. This was done with a matter of fact rationality and a complete lack of empathy for the animals being killed by such products.
  • ‘The [programme] was a shock to me when I turned on the television on Sunday afternoon and I would not have expected to see this type of content on TVNZ 1.’
  • ‘It was screened at a time children would be watching, and it is well understood that children get most upset at the sight of animals being killed.’

The broadcaster’s response

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

  • Good taste and decency: The programme’s content was consistent with its PG classification and within viewer expectations of hunting programmes in general. It would not have offended a significant number of viewers in the context of the screening.
  • Children’s interests: The programme was correctly classified and scheduled. Parents and caregivers were provided sufficient information to make an informed viewing decision on behalf of children in their care.
  • Violence: The programme’s content was consistent with its PG classification and within viewer expectations of hunting programmes in general. Sufficient care and discretion were exercised when dealing with hunting scenes.

The referral

[6]  In his referral, Mr Judge also complained ‘No distinction is made between introduced and native waterfowl, and this is a serious concern given some protected native and endangered duck species are often killed by duck shooters’. Pursuant to section 8(1B) of the Broadcasting Act 1989, we are only able to consider issues raised in the original complaint. Therefore, we do not address this additional concern below.

The relevant standards

[7]  The good taste and decency standard protects audience members from viewing broadcasts 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 assessments against this standard.1

[8]  The children’s interests standard requires broadcasters to ensure children can be protected from broadcasts which might adversely affect them. The standard enables audiences to protect children in their care from material likely to unduly disturb them, which is harmful, or is likely to impair their physical, mental, or social development.2

[9]  The violence standard protects audiences from unduly disturbing violent content. It requires broadcasters to exercise discretion when depicting violence, in terms of the degree of graphic detail included, and to use audience advisories where appropriate.3 

Our findings

[10]  We have watched a recording of the broadcast and read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

[11]  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 information and the audience’s right to receive and watch that content. We may only intervene and uphold a complaint where the broadcast has caused actual or potential harm at a level that justifies limiting the right to freedom of expression. For the reasons below, we have not found such harm in this case.

Relevant contextual factors

[12]  Context is crucial in determining complaints under the good taste and decency, children’s interests and violence standards.4 The following contextual factors are relevant:

  • New Zealand Hunter Adventures is a local documentary and factual hunting programme, as indicated by the programme title.
  • Hunting, fishing, and the consumption of meat are part of the reality of life in New Zealand. Broadcasts containing these themes are common.
  • The broadcast was classified PG (which indicated it contained material more suited for mature audiences but not necessarily unsuitable for child viewers when subject to the guidance of a parent or an adult). It was also preceded by the following audience advisory:

This programme is PG, Parental Guidance, and may contain low level coarse language (L), violence (V), sexual themes (S) or offensive content (C).

  • The broadcast screened on TVNZ 1, a channel aimed at older viewers, at 3.40pm on a Sunday.
  • The broadcast depicted duck shooting as an enjoyable outdoors activity with an emphasis on safety, fun, food, and appreciation for the environment.
  • Footage of ducks being shot was from a distance and focused on the excitement of successful shooting, rather than the killing or violence involved.
  • Ducks were killed with one or two shots and without undue cruelty.
  • The only two close ups of dead ducks focused on their ‘nice’ appearances and attributes rather than any wounds inflicted or graphic detail.

Good taste and decency

[13]  We have previously acknowledged hunting is a reality of life in New Zealand.5 This includes duck shooting. Hunting footage is generally acceptable in New Zealand, provided it does not depict undue cruelty.6 This broadcast did not depict undue cruelty.

[14]  We are also satisfied the broadcast did not ‘glorify’ the killings by depicting the hunter’s pleasure in their successful shots. Neither these segments, nor the ‘matter of fact’ promotion of hunting products, was likely to cause widespread undue offence or distress, or undermine widely shared community standards.

[15]  In addition, where broadcasters take steps to inform audiences of the nature of the programme, we are less likely to find a breach under this standard.7 The subject matter of this broadcast was clearly signposted in the programme’s title, audience advisory warning, and introduction. Viewers and caregivers had a reasonable opportunity to make an informed decision about whether they wished to continue watching, or wished their children to continue watching. Those who find such subjects disagreeable, including the complainant, could turn the programme off.

[16]  In our view, there is public interest in programmes which inform audiences about aspects of New Zealand life, including hunting. While not everyone agrees with hunting, or the use of firearms, the programme sheds light on an outdoor pursuit practiced by many New Zealanders.

[17]  In light of the contextual factors above, the episode was unlikely to have caused widespread undue offence or distress, or to have undermined widely shared community standards.

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

Children’s interests

[19]  The Children’s Media Use research, recently published by the 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.8 Accordingly, we agree broadcasters must exercise care when depicting such material.

[20]  While the programme did not depict any undue cruelty or suffering, we acknowledge some children may be disturbed by the duck shooting scenes. However, there is an expectation of adult supervision during programmes classified as PG, which contain content more suited for mature audiences, as above. We are satisfied the audience advisory was sufficient to enable parents or guardians to make informed decisions about their children’s exposure to the content.9

[21]  Therefore, we do not uphold the complaint under the children’s interests standard.

Violence

[22]  Disturbing material may sometimes feature in documentary and factual programmes as it reflects the world in which such themes exist.10 The broadcaster’s obligation is to ensure the material is justified by the context.11 The broadcaster must also use judgement and discretion when deciding the degree of graphic detail to be included, ensure it is in the public interest and, where appropriate, provide an audience advisory.12

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

  • any reference to violence was justified by context
  • the programme was in the public interest as it shed light on an outdoor pursuit practiced by many New Zealanders
  • the broadcaster exercised appropriate discretion in limiting the amount of graphic detail included
  • the broadcaster provided an adequate audience advisory.

[24]  Therefore, we 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 December 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 – 21 July 2020

2  TVNZ’s response to Mr Judge’s complaint – 18 August 2020

3  Mr Judge’s referral to the Authority – 31 August 2020

4  TVNZ’s confirmation of no further comments – 1 September 2020


1 Guideline 1a
2 Commentary: Children’s Interests, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 13
3 Guideline 4d
4 Guidelines 1a, 3c and 4a
5 Andersson and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2016-043 at [20]
6 See for example Feral and MediaWorks TV Ltd, Decision No. 2014-143 and Boyce and MediaWorks TV Ltd, Decision No 2015-103
7 Guideline 1b
8 Children’s Media Use Report (Broadcasting Standards Authority and NZ On Air, 2020) at 85 and 90
9 Guideline 3d
10 Guideline 4d
11 Guideline 4a
12 Guideline 4d