Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Illegal New Zealand – episode looked at the illegal trading of guns in New Zealand – included footage of the presenter practising target shooting – presenter shown holding a shotgun in firing position – camera briefly tracked in front of the presenter as he held a shotgun in a firing position – allegedly in breach of the law and order standard
Standard 2 (law and order) – programme did not encourage viewers to break the law or otherwise promote, condone or glamorise criminal activity – not upheld
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
 An episode of Illegal New Zealand was broadcast on TV2 at 8pm on Thursday 9 July 2009. The episode looked at the illegal trade of guns in New Zealand and how easy it was for people who did not have a firearms licence to obtain a gun.
 Part of the programme involved the reporter learning more about guns, including testing two at a firing range. The presenter introduced a man who he said was a firearms expert and who was going to teach him about guns and how to use them properly.
 The firearms expert had two guns and explained what they were and what each type was commonly used for. The expert also showed the presenter how to load ammunition and how to use the weapons correctly. The presenter then fired both of the firearms, one of which was a double-barrelled shotgun.
 After the presenter had fired the shotgun, he was shown re-loading it and pointing it as if getting ready to shoot again. As he did this, the camera tracked around the presenter and, for a brief moment before the camera pulled away, viewers were looking almost directly down the barrel of the gun.
 Roanne Heppel-Pukehika made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the camera shot looking down the barrel of the loaded shotgun had breached the law and order standard.
 The complainant said she felt that the footage looking down the barrel of the gun was a “direct threat to the viewer” and that it showed poor judgment on the part of the firearms expert to allow the footage to have been taken in that way.
 Ms Heppel-Pukehika argued that the footage was a breach of the most basic rule in the Firearms Code – to always point firearms in a safe direction whether loaded or unloaded – and that the footage was akin to pointing a gun at a person.
 Referring to guideline 2b of the law and order standard, the complainant contended that, because the footage showed the presenter breaking the rules of the “Firearms Code”, it had glamorised criminal activity and condoned criminal actions.
 Standard 2 and guideline 2b of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice are relevant to the determination of this complaint. They provide:
Standard 2 Law and Order
Broadcasters should observe standards consistent with the maintenance of law and order.
Factual programmes should not glamorise criminal activity or condone the actions of criminals.
 Referring to the Authority’s practice note on Standard 2, TVNZ said that to breach the standard a broadcast would have to implicitly condemn a particular law and actively promote disrespect for it.
 The broadcaster argued that the footage complained of did not glamorise crime or condone breaches of the Arms Act 1983. It considered that it was clear the presenter had not “presented a weapon” at any person, and contended that pointing a gun at a camera was not the same as pointing a gun at a person.
 TVNZ declined to uphold the complaint that the programme breached Standard 2.
 Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s response, Ms Heppel-Pukehika referred her complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.
 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.
 The Authority has previously stated (see, for example, Gregory and TVNZ1) that the intent behind the law and order standard is to prevent broadcasts that encourage viewers to break the law, or otherwise promote, glamorise or condone criminal activity.
 The Authority notes that, as the camera tracked around the presenter, it pulled away just before viewers could see directly down the barrel of the gun.
 While the footage was not helpful with respect to portraying the safe use of firearms, the Authority finds that the programme did not encourage viewers to break the law or otherwise promote, condone or glamorise criminal activity. Accordingly, it declines to uphold the complaint that the programme breached Standard 2 (law and order)
For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
25 November 2009
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1. Roanne Heppel-Pukehika’s formal complaint – 3 August 2009
2. TVNZ’s response to the formal complaint – 27 August 2009
3. Ms Heppel-Pukehika’s referral to the Authority – 12 September 2009
4. TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 9 October 2009
1Decision No. 2005-133