Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Toi Whakaari – kapa haka group – action during haka in which man pulls back the head of a kneeling man and thrusts a weapon at the kneeling man’s body – allegedly in breach of children’s interests standard
Standard 9 (children’s interests) – kapa haka stylised, theatrical performance – unlikely to disturb or alarm children – not upheld
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
 A secondary school kapa haka group performing a haka was shown on Toi Whakaari broadcast by Māori Television shortly before 6.00pm on 22 August 2006. Toi Whakaari showcases Māori performing art and the haka included an action where one man with a taiaha (a spear) approaches a kneeling man from behind, pulls back his head and makes a gesture as if attacking the kneeling man.
 R D Hutchins complained to Māori Television that the portrayal of the aggressive attack, accompanied by facial expressions of ferocity and fear, was unsuitable for child viewers. It should be confined to adult viewing time after 8.30pm, he wrote.
 In view of the matters raised by Mr Hutchins, the Authority has addressed the complaint under Standard 9 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. It provides:
Standard 9 Children’s Interests
During children’s normally accepted viewing times, broadcasters are required, in the preparation and presentation of programmes, to consider the interests of child viewers.
Broadcasters should be mindful of the effect any programme or promo may have on children during their normally accepted viewing times – usually up to 8.30pm – and avoid screening material which would disturb or alarm them.
 Māori Television maintained that the programme was broadcast in the appropriate timeslot and that it was not unsuitable for children. It also argued that the item did not contain excessive violence.
 Mr Hutchins responded to Māori Television and argued that broadcasters should acknowledge and respect the “innocence and vulnerability” of children.
 He noted that the Authority had declined to uphold an earlier complaint he had made about the use of tomahawks during a kapa haka performance on Toi Whakaari. That broadcast, he added, had been one hour later.
 Mr Hutchins questioned whether Māori Television had conducted surveys to enable it to conclude that broadcasting Toi Whaakari was neither disturbing nor detrimental to children.
 As he did not receive a reply to this letter from Māori Television, Mr Hutchins referred his complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.
 Mr Hutchins said the current kapa haka series contained “explicitly aggressive and violent incidents, often in close-up and with loud volume”, which did not acknowledge that material likely to be seen or heard by children “should recognise their innocence and vulnerability”.
 Māori Television asked the Authority to co-opt a Māori member to assist it to determine the complaint.
 Māori Television argued that it differed with Mr Hutchins as to what constituted violence and contended that the programme had not breached the threshold for what was allowed in “G” time.
 Referring to two previous complaints made by Mr Hutchins which had not been upheld, Māori Television contended that the current complaint was “frivolous and vexatious”.
 Mr Hutchins disputed the broadcaster’s statement that the complaint was frivolous and vexatious. Referring to his educational qualifications and experience, the complainant said that his complaint stemmed from “a long interest in and concern for the welfare of young and very young children”. Mr Hutchins argued that the broadcaster was blind to the interests of children, and had expressed no positive awareness or concern for their interests.
 He considered that Māori Television’s request to co-opt a Māori member disclosed its insensitivity to the interests of young children. Māori identity and cultural interests, he said, were now widely represented and he formally requested that the Authority co-opt a suitably qualified person to represent the interests of children.
 Māori Television stressed that kapa haka was aggressive by its nature, and the actions and gestures complained about were not uncommon. It argued that Mr Hutchins misunderstood what behaviour constituted violence under the Code and maintained that his qualifications were not relevant. It reiterated its contention that a Māori member should be co-opted by the Authority.
 In response Mr Hutchins pointed out that he had advanced his qualifications to indicate that his complaint was not frivolous and he reiterated his concern that the content was aggressive. He again urged the co-option of an expert advisor on child development but said the Authority would need to be certain that such a person would be objective and impartial, and able to stand outside the prevailing cultural and political pressures.
 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.
 This is the third complaint from Mr Hutchins about kapa haka performance on Toi Whakaari. The first one (Decision No. 2005-064) focused on what Mr Hutchins considered was the hostile intimidation involved in a whakapohane (the exposure of the buttocks).
 On that occasion, Dr Patu Hohepa, the Commissioner of Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori, was co-opted to assist the Authority. In its decision, the Authority acknowledged that a whakapohane could be interpreted as a serious insult, but guided by Dr Hohepa, it concluded that those who understood the cultural relevance of the gesture would be unlikely to take offence.
 Making use of Dr Hohepa’s previous guidance on tikanga Māori, the Authority did not co-opt before determining the second complaint from Mr Hutchins (Decision No. 2005-088). That complaint focused on a haka which involved performers brandishing unprotected tomahawks.
 The Authority declines the requests of both the complainant and the broadcaster to co-opt a member to assist in the determination of the current complaint. It considers that it does not need further assistance to determine the complaint that it was unsuitable to broadcast a haka containing threatening actions during children’s normal viewing times.
 The Authority set out its approach to material screened on Toi Whaakari in Decision No. 2005-064 when it co-opted Dr Patu Hohepa. The approach adopted on that occasion remains relevant. The Authority noted at that time:
Traditional performance is an important part of tikanga Māori, and waiata and haka are integral to teaching children in kohanga reo and kura kaupapa. They are also taught in many mainstream schools. As these elements of Māori culture form an important part of many New Zealand children’s education, the Authority considers that children would be neither disturbed nor alarmed by the performance screened on Toi Whakaari.
 Mr Hutchins complained on this occasion that the action whereby a person was stylistically threatened with a taiaha was unsuitable for child viewers. In view of the obvious theatrical nature of the performance, the Authority considers that the gesture was not overly menacing. The action was brief and unrealistic, and the kneeling man was seen to continue dancing unharmed. The Authority finds that these stylised actions would not be unduly alarming for children viewers. Accordingly, it is of the opinion that Māori Television considered the interests of children and complied with Standard 9.
 The Authority has declined to uphold two similar complaints from Mr Hutchins about Māori performing art on Toi Whakaari. In view of these decisions, the Authority advises that it may decline to determine further similar complaints.
For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
20 November 2006
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 R D Hutchins’ formal complaint to Māori Television – 4 September 2006
2 Māori Television’s response to the formal complaint – 7 September 2006
3 Mr Hutchins’ response to Māori Television – 14 September 2006
4 Hutchins’ response to Māori Television – 15 September 2006
5 Māori Television’s response to the Authority – 18 September 2006
6 Māori Television’s further response to the Authority – 21 September 2006
7 Māori Television’s further response to the Authority – 22 September 2006
8 Mr Hutchins’ Final Comment – 1 October 2006
9 Māori Television’s response to the Authority – 9 October 2006
10 Mr Hutchins' further response – 12 October 2006