McDonald and Discovery NZ Ltd - 2020-102 (28 January 2021)
- Judge Bill Hastings (Chair)
- Leigh Pearson
- Paula Rose QSO
- Susie Staley MNZM
BroadcasterDiscovery NZ Ltd
[This summary does not form part of the decision.]
The Authority did not uphold a complaint about a Newshub item interviewing two ‘dare-devils’ who engage in ‘roof-topping’, an activity which the New Zealand Police issued a ‘stern’ warning about. The Authority found the item did not actively promote or glamorise illegal behaviour as it was made clear the activity was illegal and ill-advised. The remaining standards either did not apply or were not breached in the context.
Not Upheld: Law and Order, Children’s Interests, Good Taste and Decency, Alcohol, Balance
 An item on Newshub Live at 6pm on 22 July 2020 (Three) covered a ‘death-defying craze known as roof-topping’ in which people climb and hang off tall buildings. Two 23-year-old ‘tradies’ were interviewed and clips of them hanging off the 57th floor of a waterfront skyscraper in Auckland were shown. The item included the following statements:
- ‘Jaw-dropping video has emerged of two dare-devils free-hanging off an Auckland skyscraper. Police have issued a stern warning regarding the activity and a video has prompted an investigation from the team building the skyscraper.’ (reporter)
- ‘We’re “brofessionals” so we don’t get scared. Obviously, there’s a big risk there. You know, if you fall off, you’re dead pretty much.’ (interviewee)
- ‘What do you say to people who just think you’re idiots?’ (reporter) ‘We are. Don’t try it at home.’ (interviewee)
- ‘For many, including the New Zealand Police, this is no joking matter. Today, they issued a firm warning to the public that anyone carrying out this activity is not only risking their own lives and others’, but also risks being arrested for trespassing.’ (reporter)
 Donald McDonald complained the item breached the law and order, children’s interests, good taste and decency, alcohol and balance standards as it was ‘provoking dangerous behaviour’. His complaint included other comments that did not relate to the broadcast material.
The broadcaster’s response
 MediaWorks did not uphold Mr McDonald’s complaint stating it had not identified any content in breach of broadcasting standards.
The relevant standard
 We focused our consideration on the law and order standard as that was most relevant to the substance of the complaint. We deal with the remaining standards below at paragraph .
 The standard states broadcasters should observe standards consistent with the maintenance of law and order, taking into account the context of the programme and the wider context of the broadcast. Its purpose is to prevent broadcasts that encourage viewers to break the law, or otherwise promote, glamorise or condone criminal activity.1 It does not stop broadcasters from discussing or depicting criminal or illegal behaviour.2
 We have watched the broadcast and read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.
 Our task is to weigh the value of the programme, in terms of the right to freedom of expression and the public interest in it, against the level of actual or potential harm caused by the broadcast. The harm alleged is viewers may be encouraged to attempt similar dangerous actions as shown in the item.
 The context of the programme and the wider context of the broadcast are important considerations when assessing potential harm under this standard.3 Relevant contextual factors in this case include:
- The item was part of an unclassified news programme (not required to carry a rating), targeted at an adult audience. Children may have been watching, but were unlikely to be unsupervised.
- The item was clear that the actions of the interviewees were illegal, with opening and closing statements that NZ Police had given ‘stern’ and ‘firm’ warnings about engaging in such behaviour.
- The interviewees agreed they were ‘idiots’ and said ‘don’t try it at home’.
- There were no comments glorifying or praising the interviewees, nor was copycat action encouraged.
- The item did not include information on how the interviewees were able to access the building and get to the 57th floor or any instructional information.
 In this context we do not consider the broadcast actively promoted illegal activity and we do not uphold the complaint under the law and order standard.
The remaining standards
 We found the remaining standards either do not apply or were not breached because:
- Children’s interests:4 the content of the item was not outside audience expectations of a news programme.5 The broadcaster adequately considered children’s interests in light of the contextual factors listed above.
- Good taste and decency:6 the item was consistent with audience expectations of a news broadcast7 and did not contain material likely to unduly offend or disturb viewers in the context.
- Alcohol:8 there was no use of, or reference to, alcohol.
- Balance:9 the item did not discuss a controversial issue of public importance requiring the presentation of alternative viewpoints.10
For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
Judge Bill Hastings
28 January 2021
The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 Donald McDonald’s complaint to MediaWorks – 22 July 2020
2 MediaWorks’ response to the complaint – 19 August 2020
3 Mr McDonald’s referral to the Authority – 19 August 2020
4 MediaWorks’ confirmation of no further comments – 10 September 2020
1 As above
2 Commentary: Law and Order, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 15
3 Guideline 5b
4 Standard 3 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice
5 Guideline 3b
6 Standard 1 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice
7 Guideline 1a
8 Standard 7 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice
9 Standard 8 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice
10 Guideline 8a