Lewis and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2020-086 (24 November 2020)
- Judge Bill Hastings (Chair)
- Paula Rose QSO
- Susie Staley MNZM
- Leigh Pearson
- Nathan Lewis
BroadcasterTelevision New Zealand Ltd
[This summary does not form part of the decision.]
In an episode of Seven Sharp, journalist Laura Daniels presented regarding creating a European inspired holiday from within New Zealand, in the context of COVID-19 travel restrictions. It included a scene where she pretended to eat cigarettes from a plate. The Authority did not uphold a complaint the broadcast was inappropriate for children to watch and breached the children’s interests standard. Taking the contextual factors into account, in particular the audience expectations of Seven Sharp, the Authority found the segment was unlikely to adversely affect children.
Not Upheld: Children’s Interests
 During an episode of Seven Sharp at 7pm on 6 July 2020, the host, Hilary Barry, introduced a segment on creating a European inspired holiday in New Zealand in the context of COVID-19 related travel restrictions preventing overseas holidays.
 Reporter Laura Daniels, discussing how to make a European meal, showed the audience a plate of cured meats and cigarettes, saying:
Just chuck your dining table in your backyard and make a big plate of what Europeans eat, mmm cured meat and cigarettes. I don’t eat meat or smoke, but when in Rome…
 Ms Daniels cut a cigarette with a knife and fork and attempted to eat it before spitting it out in apparent disgust.
 In considering this complaint, we have viewed a recording of the broadcast and read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.
 Mr Lewis complained the broadcast breached the children’s interests standard of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice stating, ‘My 10 year old boy wanted to know why they would do that…It was obviously meant as humorous…unfortunately a 10 year old doesn’t have the mental capacity to understand this...’
The broadcaster’s response
 TVNZ did not uphold the complaint saying:
- Seven Sharp is aimed at an adult audience.
- The Authority has previously recognised adult supervision is expected and parents will exercise discretion around viewing of unclassified news programmes as these programmes are likely to contain material that is inappropriate for children.
- The segment was intended to be humorous and it clearly communicated that eating cigarettes is disgusting.
- The segment was consistent with the kind of quirky and interesting topics featured on Seven Sharp and the tone was typical of the light-hearted approach expected by viewers of the programme. Parents can provide guidance on the advisability of eating cigarettes if needed.
 The children’s interests standard (Standard 3) states broadcasters should 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.1
 The standard focuses on harm that may be unique to children. Content that could be considered harmful to children may not be harmful or unexpected when considering the audience in general. Thus, the children’s interests standard may be more rigorous than the general good taste and decency standard.2
 The right to freedom of expression is an important right in a democracy. It is important we weigh the right to freedom of expression against the harm potentially caused by the broadcast. We may only intervene when the limitation on the right to freedom of expression is reasonable and justified.
 Context is an important consideration when assessing complaints under the children’s interests standard.3 The following contextual factors are relevant:
- Seven Sharp is a current affairs programme targeted at an adult audience. It applies a non-traditional, light-hearted treatment to news stories.
- The segment was intended to be humorous and Seven Sharp has well-established audience expectations regarding humorous and edgy material.
- The footage of Ms Daniels attempting to eat a cigarette was a brief part of the broadcast.
- Eating cigarettes was not depicted as a positive experience.
- The broadcast’s nature and tone was consistent with the established expectations of the target audience.
 Taking these contextual factors into account, in particular the audience expectations of Seven Sharp, the segment was unlikely to adversely affect children.
 For these reasons, we do not uphold this complaint.
For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
Judge Bill Hastings
24 November 2020
The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 Nathan Lewis’s formal complaint – 6 July 2020
2 TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 28 July 2020
3 Mr Lewis’s referral to the Authority – 28 July 2020
4 TVNZ’s confirmation of no further comment – 1 September 2020
1 Guideline 3a
2 Commentary: Children’s Interests, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 14
3 Guideline 3b