BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Sharp and TVWorks Ltd - 2009-128

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • Raegan Sharp
3 News at Midday
TVWorks Ltd
TV3 # 3

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
3 News at Midday – item reported comeback of English matador – showed images of bull with banderillas protruding from its back – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency

Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – item did not contain any objectionable footage – no warning required – contextual factors – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1]   An item on 3 News at Midday, broadcast on TV3 at 12pm on Tuesday 1 September 2009, reported that a 67-year-old English matador was returning to Spain to continue his career in the bull fighting ring following major knee surgery and a quadruple heart bypass. The item included footage of the man getting into costume and in the ring with a bull. There were also images of a bull with two banderillas protruding from its back.


[2]   Raegan Sharp made a formal complaint to TVWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the item breached standards of good taste and decency because bull fighting was a controversial sport which many people believed constituted animal abuse. He alleged that the item should have warned viewers that the story might offend and that it contained images of animal cruelty. The complainant considered that the item glorified bull fighting as a “sport”.


[3]   TVWorks assessed the complaint under Standard 1 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, which provides:

Standard 1 Good taste and decency

Broadcasters should observe standards of good taste and decency.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[4]   TVWorks contended that, to constitute a breach of Standard 1, the broadcast material must be unacceptable in the context in which it was shown. It argued that a number of contextual factors were relevant on this occasion.

[5]   The broadcaster noted that the item was broadcast during an unclassified news programme targeted at adults, and maintained that the Authority had previously stated that children were unlikely to watch news programmes unaccompanied even though they were screened prior to the Adults Only watershed at 8.30pm.

[6]   TVWorks acknowledged that bull fighting “can be a controversial animal rights issue with the potential to polarise an audience”. However, it considered that most people knew what was involved, including the stabbing of the bull, and so the content of the item would not have been unexpected in the context of an item about a bull fighter. In those circumstances it did not believe that a warning was necessary.

[7]   The broadcaster noted that the item showed the matador and a bull in the ring, and included “the familiar if controversial images of a bull with banderillas protruding from its back”. It said that these images were brief and did not show excessive blood or the animal in a severely crippled state. TVWorks apologised to the complainant if he was upset by the images, but emphasised that it did not believe them to be surprising in the context of the item.

[8]   TVWorks stated that “the fact that there exists disagreement over whether it is appropriate to continue the bull fighting tradition in Spain is not sufficient to prevent the broadcast of images of the sport”. It noted that the Authority had previously held that:

The purpose of the good taste and decency standard is not to prohibit challenging material, or material that some people may find offensive. Its purpose is to ensure sufficient care is taken so that challenging material is played only in an appropriate context, and that the challenges are not so offensive that they are unacceptable regardless of context.

[9]   TVWorks concluded that the material included in the item was acceptable in context and therefore did not breach Standard 1.

Referral to the Authority

[10]   Dissatisfied with TVWorks’ decision, Mr Sharp referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He considered that the broadcaster’s argument that the programme had an adult target audience and therefore its content was appropriate “missed the point”. He emphasised his view that bull fighting was a cruel and outdated practice, and believed that many people would have found the item distasteful. The complainant reiterated his argument that the item should have had a warning for its content.

Authority's Determination

[11]   The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

[12]   When the Authority considers an alleged breach of Standard 1, it takes into account the context of the broadcast. On this occasion, the relevant contextual factors include:

  • 3 News at Midday was an unclassified news programme
  • it was broadcast at 12pm on a Tuesday
  • the programme’s adult target audience
  • the item was not preceded by a warning.

[13]   In the Authority’s view, the item was a factual, human interest piece focusing on the matador’s experiences and his preparations for going back into the bull fighting ring. The item did not contain any footage of animals in which blood or wounds were visible, and the subject matter of the item was clearly signposted in the introduction. The Authority therefore disagrees with the complainant that the item required a warning.

[14]   In the context of an unclassified news programme, the Authority finds that nothing in the item strayed beyond the bounds of good taste and decency. It declines to uphold the complaint.


For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Joanne Morris
21 December 2009


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

1.          Raegan Sharp’s formal complaint – 1 September 2009
2.         TVWorks’ response to the complaint – 25 September 2009
3.         Mr Sharp’s referral to the Authority – 28 September 2009
4.         TVWorks’ response to the Authority – 22 October 2009