BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Tily and Discovery NZ Ltd - 2022-047 (2 August 2022)

Members
  • Susie Staley MNZM (Chair)
  • John Gillespie
  • Tupe Solomon-Tanoa’i
  • Aroha Beck
Dated
Number
2022-047
Programme
AM
Broadcaster
Discovery NZ Ltd
Channel/Station
Three

Summary

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

The Authority has not upheld a complaint that it was inappropriate to broadcast images of spiders due to viewers potentially having arachnophobia. The Authority found the images were unlikely to cause widespread undue offence, and the introduction to the item gave viewers who did not want to see spiders the opportunity to switch off. The programme information and discrimination and denigration standards did not apply.

Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Programme Information, Discrimination and Denigration.


The broadcast

[1]  A segment on AM on 28 March 2022 included an interview with ‘the Bug Man’ Ruud Kleinpaste about daddy long-legs spiders.

[2]  The host introduced the item:

Daddy long-legs could be one of our most under-rated little critters. We don’t think much of them and often don’t hesitate to suck them up in the vacuum cleaner. To find out more about daddy long-legs, the Bug Man, Ruud Kleinpaste, thank you very much for joining us.

[3]  The host and Kleinpaste discussed the different kinds of daddy long-legs (spiders and flies), what they do, where they live, and the fragility of their legs. During the discussion a number images of daddy long legs spiders and flies were shown.

The complaint

[4]  Aaron Tily complained about the images of spiders featured in the broadcast. Tily argued the images were a breach of broadcasting standards as there was no consideration for people with phobias of spiders.

The broadcaster’s response

[5]  Discovery apologised for any distress the broadcasts may have caused the complainant but did not uphold the complaint for the following reasons:

  • Before a commercial break, the audience was informed that the show was going to be discussing spiders after the break.
  • ‘… the interview with Mr Kleinpaste was educational and informative and remained well within audience expectations of AM and the boundaries of broadcasting standards.’

The relevant standards

[6]  The good taste and decency standard1 states current norms of good taste and decency should be maintained, consistent with the context of the programme and the wider context of the broadcast. The standard is intended to protect audiences from content likely to cause widespread undue offence or distress, or undermine widely shared community standards.2

[7]  The programme information standard3 is concerned with ensuring programmes are correctly classified and scheduled in appropriate timeslots. The discrimination and denigration standard4 states broadcasters should not encourage discrimination against, or denigration of, any recognised ‘section of the community.’ Neither of these standards is applicable to the complainant’s concerns, which are best addressed under the good taste and decency standard. On this basis we do not address these standards in our decision.

Our analysis

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

[9]  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.5

[10]  Context is an important consideration in assessing complaints under the good taste and decency standard.6

[11]  In this case, we have considered the following contextual factors:

  • The nature of the programme and target audience: AM is a news and entertainment programme with a wide target audience.7
  • Audience expectations of the programme: an educational segment on ‘bugs,’ specifically spiders, is within audience expectations of AM. The programme signalled that there would be a discussion regarding spiders after a commercial break, and also in the introduction to the segment before any images were shown, giving viewers the ability to moderate their viewing.
  • Use of the images: while there were multiple and repeated images of spiders, in the context of an educational segment about spiders, viewers would reasonably expect to see images of spiders.

[12]  While we acknowledge some viewers may have been distressed by the images of spiders, noting the contextual factors above we find that use of the images was well within audience expectations for the programme. As an educational segment, it was unlikely to cause widespread offence or undermine community standards as contemplated under the good taste and decency standard. Viewers with arachnophobia had time to switch off during the introduction to the item, when it was clear spiders were the subject of the item. 

[13]  The complainant’s concerns bordered on matters of personal preference and editorial discretion, which are not capable of being addressed by the broadcasting standards complaints process. Broadcasters are not obliged to refrain from broadcasting content which may be the subject of a phobia, and viewers have some responsibility for the content they consume, particularly where the subject of the content is well signposted. As a result, the Authority considered declining to determine the complaint. However, for the reasons set out above we have not upheld the complaint on the basis we have found no harm that warrants regulatory intervention.

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

 

Susie Staley
Chair
2 August 2022

 

 

Appendix

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

1  Aaron Tily’s formal complaint to Discovery – 28 March 2022

2  Discovery’s decision on the complaint – 21 April 2022

3  Tily’s referral to the Authority – 21 April 2022

4  Discovery’s confirmation of no further comments – 22 April 2022


1 Standard 1 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice
2 Commentary: Good Taste and Decency, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 12
3 Standard 2 of the Free-to-Air Code of Broadcasting Practice
4 Standard 6 of the Free-to-Air Code of Broadcasting Practice
5 Freedom of Expression: Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 6
6 Guidelines 1a
7 Mikaela Wilkes “Meet the hosts of the new AM show: Melissa Chan-Green, Ryan Bridge, Bernadine Oliver-Kerby and William Waiirua” Stuff (online ed, 27 January 2022)