BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Roughan and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2023-112 (20 February 2024)

  • Susie Staley MNZM (Chair)
  • John Gillespie
  • Aroha Beck
  • Pulotu Tupe Solomon-Tanoa’i
  • Damian Roughan


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

The Authority has not upheld a complaint that two 1News segments on the Israel and Hamas war breached the promotion of illegal or antisocial behaviour standard. The segments included images of covered bodies, as well as clips of Hamas militants. The Authority found the segments to be straightforward news reports. It did not consider the segments encouraged viewers to break the law or promoted illegal or criminal activity.

Not Upheld: Promotion of Illegal or Antisocial Behaviour

The broadcast

[1]  The 11 October 2023 1News episode contained two segments on the Israel and Hamas conflict.

Segment 1

[2]  The first segment reported on Hamas’s 7 October 2023 attack on Israel and Israel’s retaliatory airstrikes in Gaza. Before the discussion of the Hamas attack, the host, Melissa Stokes, stated ‘Now, we do have a warning for you before this story. You may find some aspects of it disturbing. Israeli military are still recovering bodies.’ Multiple clips were then shown of body bags presumably containing the bodies of Israelis killed in the 7 October 2023 attack, as well as a clip of what appeared to be two sleeping bags, again presumably covering bodies, and a shot of the feet of what was described as the dead body of a Hamas militant. 

Segment 2

[3]  The second segment focussed on the experiences of a group of New Zealand Tongan pilgrims who were in Israel when the 7 October 2023 attack occurred, and who were still in Israel some days later, waiting for flights home. One of the people from the group interviewed stated ‘it is hard to explain to our family members who are worried sick watching the news, watching all these clips and stuff, but we can’t explain it, but we are at peace. We are gonna be okay. We are gonna be home soon.’

[4]  During this statement and afterwards, three clips were shown of what appeared to be Hamas militants attacking a man lying on the ground; holding guns in the back of a truck; and standing on top of a tank. 

The complaint

[5]  Damian Roughan complained the broadcast breached the promotion of illegal and antisocial behaviour standard on the basis the broadcast presented clips ‘provided by Hamas terrorists and not by [TVNZ] reporters.’ The complainant stated ‘This makes TVNZ by association, complicit with the terrorists by using their video material. Then publishing them and spreading this material.’

[6]  The complainant also raised concerns with the ‘seemingly uncensored images of bloodied bodies the most disturbing of which was on the news at 6 showing the blood stained body of a child in bed, dead! All be it with face blurred out [sic].’

The broadcaster’s response

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

  • 1News is aimed at an adult audience.’
  • ‘There is an expectation that parents exercise discretion around viewing news and current affairs programmes with their children.’
  • ‘News and current affairs broadcasts often discuss current events including serious crime such as murder, child abuse, rape, terror attacks and natural disasters of a large scale where people are killed; and there is an expectation that the broadcasts will carry some footage of crimes and disasters including film of bodies, accidents and civil unrest.’
  • ‘[The complainant has] complained about the brief footage shown in the story about the pilgrims wanting to return home from Israel, which shows the nature of the conflict and, what is being seen by the pilgrims and their families concerning the conflict in the area in news reports and online.’
  • ‘There is no endorsement of violence or terrorism in the story or in the use of the footage, it is simply used to show what is being seen and is acceptable in this context.’
  • ‘[The complainant has] complained about footage of a dead child, this was not shown in either story.’
  • ‘The first story, which did show people in body bags carried a warning concerning “disturbing” material; and it is made clear through the introduction that children have been killed in the conflict on both sides.’
  • ‘The conflict, and the effects of the people caught up in it, are of international concern and it is in the public interest for this to be broadcast. The Bill of Rights Act 1990 protects the right for this information to be made available.’

The standard

[8]  The purpose of the promotion of illegal or antisocial behaviour standard1 is to prevent broadcasts that encourage audiences to break the law or are otherwise likely to promote criminal or serious antisocial activity.2 Context, and the audience’s ability to exercise choice and control, are crucial in assessing a programme’s likely practical effect.3

Our analysis

[9]  We have watched the broadcast and read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

[10]  As a starting point, we considered the right to freedom of expression. It is our role to weigh up the right to freedom of expression against any harm potentially caused by the broadcast. We may only intervene when the limitation on the right to freedom of expression is demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.4

Promotion of Illegal or Antisocial Behaviour

[11]  The standard states broadcasters should not broadcast content which is likely to promote illegal or serious antisocial behaviour.5 The standard does not stop broadcasters from depicting criminal behaviour; it is concerned with broadcasts that actively promote or encourage serious antisocial (or illegal) behaviour.6 Context is important in assessing complaints under this standard, and we considered the following contextual factors relevant:

  • 1News is an unclassified news programme, broadcast at 6pm with an adult target audience. News items often involve challenging material which reflects the world we live in.7
  • There was high public interest in reporting on the Israel and Hamas conflict.
  • The footage of the bodies in the first segment was preceded by a warning, and was not unnecessarily graphic, with the bodies either in body bags or covered with other material.
  • On viewing the footage, we saw no indication that any of the bodies belonged to children.
  • The footage of Hamas militants in the second segment was very brief (the three clips were each approximately 3 seconds long).
  • In the second segment, aside from the clip of men attacking another man on the ground (which was difficult to discern in the brief time it was shown), the clips did not contain explicit violence or graphic content.
  • The inclusion of footage of the Hamas militants in the second clip was relevant to the report on the experience of the pilgrims in Israel, as it was an example of the type of content their families were seeing online, which was causing their families to be concerned for them.  
  • None of the 1News footage contained instructional elements (capable of assisting/instructing other extremists).

[12]  Both segments amounted to straightforward news reports. We do not consider the footage of body bags, nor the brief clips of what appeared to be Hamas militants, in any way encouraged viewers to break the law, or promoted similar behaviour. 

[13]  The complainant’s main concern appears to be that by simply showing footage that may have been created by Hamas, the broadcaster is in breach of broadcasting standards. However, there is no blanket prohibition on using such footage. Rather, when choosing whether to play such footage, our guidance to broadcasters is that they should consider, amongst other things:8 

  • whether including the footage is likely to promote or glorify the attacker or their method, message, and actions; and
  • what is necessary to give the public a sufficiently comprehensive (but not unduly sanitised or overly sensationalised) account of what happened, enabling them to understand its scale and significance.

[14]   We consider the segment on the experience of the pilgrims as a whole had value in terms of the right to freedom of expression and carried a public interest in showing the experiences of New Zealanders who were unexpectedly caught up in the conflict. The media play a critical role in informing the public about serious events like the Israel and Hamas conflict, and it is important that audiences are provided with sufficient information to enable them to understand the scale and significance of such events, and who might be impacted by them.9 In this case, while suggestive of violence (people were shown with guns, and were shown attacking a man on the ground) the relevant clips did not glorify Hamas, detail what was occurring in the clips, promote or amplify Hamas’s messaging or ideals, or encourage the audience to take similar action.

[15]  Accordingly, we do not consider regulatory intervention, and a restriction on the right to freedom of expression, justified in this instance.

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


Susie Staley
20 February 2024




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

1  Damien Roughan’s formal complaint – 13 October 2023

2  TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 9 November 2023

3  Roughan’s referral to the Authority – 28 November 2023

4  TVNZ’s confirmation of no further comment – 1 December 2023

1 Standard 3, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand
2 Commentary, Standard 3, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand, page 11
3 Guideline 3.1
4 Introduction, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand, page 4
5 Standard 3, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand
6 Commentary, Standard 3, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand at 11
7 Ross and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2023-042 at [19]
8 See Broadcasting Standards Authority | Te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho “Considerations for Reporting on Terrorism, Violent Extremism and Crisis Events” (March 2020)
9 Millar and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2022-060 at [20]