Kearins and Discovery NZ Ltd - 2021-137 (9 February 2022)
- Susie Staley MNZM (Chair)
- John Gillespie
- Tupe Solomon-Tanoa’i
- Jon Kearins
BroadcasterDiscovery NZ Ltd T/A Warner Bros. Discovery
[This summary does not form part of the decision.]
The Authority has found a news item about a party breaching lockdown restrictions in Auckland did not breach the children’s interests standard. The Authority noted the public interest in the broadcast and considered the content was within audience expectations for a news programme. In context, the item was unlikely to cause widespread offence or undermine community standards.
Not Upheld: Children’s Interests
 On 18 October 2021, Newshub Live at 6pm reported, ‘Brands and talent agencies have been distancing themselves from COVID rule breakers, who attended a party in Auckland this weekend.’ The item covered a group of ‘influencers’ attending a party in Auckland that breached COVID-19 alert level restrictions, reporting, ‘Experts fear the party could be a super-spreader event undoing the Super City's efforts to suppress the virus.’
 The item included chemical scientist Dr Joel Rindelaub who explained how COVID-19 spreads at parties:
Reporter: Dr Joel Rindelaub says the indoor environment means aerosols containing the delta virus can spread faster and being in close proximity doesn't help.
Dr Rindelaub: COVID aerosol does come from your mouth, so sucking on another person's COVID hole is not a recommended way to prevent the spread of the virus. And when we're talking about dry humping, I actually wouldn't recommend that behaviour for partying with or without COVID.
 Clips taken from social media of partygoers drinking, kissing, dancing on tables and dry humping on the floor were shown.
 Jon Kearins complained the broadcast breached the children’s interests standard for the following reasons:
- ‘The news article showed party goers dry humping and talk about influencing young people.’
- Children were watching the broadcast.
- ‘…there was no absolutely no need to show the dry humping. It wasn’t necessary...’
The broadcaster’s response
 Discovery NZ Ltd (Discovery) did not uphold the complaint for the following reasons:
- Newshub Live at 6pm is not appropriate for children to watch unsupervised.
- ‘The material in question was not unacceptably challenging for inclusion in the 6pm news bulletin.’
- ‘Footage of the party-goers' activities was in context to the narrative’ and ‘it was important to show the extent of the rulebreaking that occurred at the party to help explain the public outrage the party elicited’.
- ‘A tease to the story was included at the beginning of the 6pm bulletin and the events of the party had been widely publicised prior to the 6pm bulletin that day.’
- ‘…parents had sufficient information to make an informed choice as to whether or not they wished their children to view the Broadcast.’
 The children’s interests standard1 requires broadcasters to ensure children can be protected from broadcasts which might adversely affect them. Material likely to be considered under this standard includes sexual or 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.2
 We have watched the broadcast and read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.
 As a starting point, we considered the right to freedom of expression. As we may only intervene when the limitation on the right to freedom of expression is reasonable and justified, we weigh the right to freedom of expression against any harm potentially caused by the broadcast.3
 The standards recognise that news programmes are by their nature distinctive, and often include material reflective of the world we live in.4 The focus of the standards is on providing effective protections to enable viewers to make a different viewing choice or otherwise exercise discretion about what they watch. The context in which content occurs and the wider context of the broadcast are relevant to assessing whether a broadcast has breached the children’s interest standard.5 In news, current affairs and factual programmes, disturbing or alarming material should be justified in the public interest and an audience advisory be broadcast when appropriate.6
 The contextual factors relevant to our consideration here include:
- Newshub Live at 6pm is an unclassified news programme targeted at an adult audience. It is unlikely children will watch this unsupervised.7
- The item is a report about young partygoers breaching COVID-19 restrictions and widely sharing footage of this on social media, and the concerns this caused for the community. This was a major news story in October 2021 and many were concerned about the actions of those featured in the footage.
- The degree of close physical contact was relevant to the news story.
- The introduction summarised what the item would be about, but did not contain any content warnings.
- The footage was grainy and did not include any explicit sexual images or nudity.
- Footage of the party was uploaded to social media by ‘influencers’ with a target audience including young teens.
 We acknowledge the complainant’s genuine and reasonable concerns regarding the potential impacts of the programme. The report did contain footage of people simulating sex acts at a party.
 However, the issues discussed (specifically the risk of COVID-19 transmission in environments such as this) also carried a high public interest value. The item highlighted concerns about people engaging in breaches of alert level rules and the health impacts this could have, as well as community backlash.
 Considering the above contextual factors, as a news item, the broadcast was unlikely to adversely affect children as contemplated under the standard.
For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
9 February 2022
The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 Jon Kearins’ formal complaint – 19 October 2021
2 Discovery’s response to the complaint – 12 November 2021
3 Kearins’ referral to the Authority – 13 November 2021
4 Discovery’s confirmation of no further comments – 3 December 2021
1 Standard 3 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice
2 Guideline 3a
3 Freedom of Expression: Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 6
4 See Lewis and MediaWorks TV Ltd, Decision No. 2017-069 at  and Moore and MediaWorks TV Ltd, Decision No. 2017-059 at 
5 Guideline 3c
6 Guideline 3d
7 Pask and MediaWorks TV Ltd, Decision No. 2019-057 at