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Dewe and TVWorks Ltd - 2008-076

Members

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Paul France
  • Tapu Misa
  • Diane Musgrave

Complainant

  • Cameron Dewe of Upper Hutt

Dated

21st October 2008

Number

2008-076

Programme

Campbell Live

Channel/Station

TV3

Broadcaster

TVWorks Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1C) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Campbell Live – item on shoplifting – included footage of “security expert” shoplifting from two stores – allegedly in breach of law and order and balance

Findings
Standard 2 (law and order) – item did not encourage viewers to break the law or promote, condone or glamorise criminal activity – not upheld

Standard 4 (balance) – item did not discuss a controversial issue of public importance – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1]   An episode of Campbell Live, broadcast on TV3 at 7pm on Monday 9 June 2008, featured a story on shoplifting and the effects it was having both on the business community and New Zealand consumers.

[2]   The presenter introduced the item by saying:

Tonight...we look at others caught on camera, caught shoplifting. In fact...most  [retail theft] doesn’t take place at gunpoint. It’s small, nimble-fingered and unnoticed until the thief is long gone. But it is now estimated that shoplifting costs New Zealand retailers the staggering total of $600 million a year. Clearly they can’t absorb such a cost, so that figure is passed on to you. And when times are tough, shoplifting gets worse, which makes it surprising that so many stores are still so unprotected. Simon Shepherd and a security consultant go shopping without a wallet.     

[3]   The item engaged the services of a store security expert and shoplifting specialist, Steve Davis, who claimed that New Zealand retailers were too complacent about the issue of shoplifting. The item included footage of Mr Davis demonstrating how easy it was to shoplift items from stores without being caught. Via a hidden camera, Mr Davis was shown in two different stores taking items off the shelf with comment provided by a voice-over from the reporter. While Mr Davis was shown taking items from the shelf, no footage was shown of him leaving either store with the stolen goods.

[4]   After successfully taking items from each store, Mr Davis met the Campbell Live reporter in the car park and they discussed what he had stolen, what the items were worth and whether stealing them had been difficult.

[5]   Throughout the item, security footage was shown of various people shoplifting in stores and supermarkets.

[6]   The item also included an interview with Barry Hellberg from the New Zealand Retailers’ Association who commented on the problem of shoplifting.     

Complaint

[7]   Cameron Dewe made a formal complaint to TVWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging the item had breached the broadcasting standards relating to the maintenance of law and order and balance.

[8]   Mr Dewe stated that “the programme appeared to film Mr Davis’ activities, explained what he did and depicted the results of what he had done in a meeting with the reporter in the car park afterwards”. He contended that while the item had included an interview with Barry Hellberg from the Retailers’ Association, “there was no mention if the retailers who were targeted by Mr Davis were approached for comment or interviewed”. 

[9]   The complainant also stated that “no mention was made of what happened to the items that Mr Davis took from the shops” and that “as far as the viewer is aware, Mr Davis got away with a crime”. Referring to guideline 2a of the law and order standard, Mr Dewe noted that the item did not explain what the laws relating to shoplifting actually were or that it was considered a criminal act. He contended that the item only presented shoplifting as a commercial problem that consumers paid for and not an “anti-social issue that also affected tax payers” due to police involvement.

[10]   Referring to guideline 2b of the law and order standard, the complainant noted that programmes “should not glamorise criminal activity or condone the actions of criminals”. He argued that the programme had breached this guideline as it had not explained that “what Mr Davis had done would be a crime if done by any viewer”. Mr Dewe considered that by saying Mr Davis had never been caught shoplifting the item suggested to viewers that it was something “others could get away with, without consequence” and had glamorised the crime. “By not saying the items taken were returned, Mr Davis appears to have committed theft, with no consequences”, he said.   

[11]   Referring to guideline 2c of the law and order standard, the complainant argued that the programme had shown viewers what Mr Davis had done to successfully steal the items from the stores. He also noted that the item had shown security camera footage of other people shoplifting and contended that this too showed viewers techniques for shoplifting.

[12]   Referring to guideline 2e of the law and order standard, Mr Dewe argued the item had “depicted a crime – shoplifting – suggesting it was easy to do”. He also mentioned that the item did not explain that “some retailers are extremely harsh on shoplifters they do apprehend”.

[13]   With respect to balance and referring to guideline 4a of the balance standard, the complainant stated that the item “did not explain or provide the attitude of the Police or justice system to shoplifting” nor of “criminals who had been caught and punished for shoplifting”. 

Standards

[14]   Standards 2 and 4 and guidelines 2a, 2b, 2c and 2e of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice are relevant to the determination of this complaint. These provide:

Standard 2 Law and Order

In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are responsible for maintaining standards which are consistent with the maintenance of law and order.

Guidelines

2a    Broadcasters must respect the principles of law which sustain our society.

2b    Factual programmes should not glamorise criminal activity or condone the
        actions of criminals.

2c    Programmes should not depict or describe techniques of crime in a manner
        which invites imitation.

2e    The realistic portrayal of anti-social behaviour, including violent and serious crime
        and the abuse of liquor and drugs, should not be shown in a way that glamorises
        these activities.

Standard 4 Balance

In the preparation and presentation of news, current affairs and factual programmes, broadcasters are responsible for maintaining standards consistent with the principle that when controversial issues of public importance are discussed, reasonable efforts are made, or reasonable opportunities are given, to present significant points of view either in the same programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest.

Referral to the Authority

[15]   Having not received a response from TVWorks within the 20 working day time limit, Mr Dewe referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1C) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He reiterated the arguments contained in his formal complaint.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[16]   TVWorks stated that the content of news and current affairs stories was a matter of editorial discretion and that “when looking at an issue, every item is not expected to deal with all aspects of the issue subject to compliance with the general law, journalistic ethics and the standards of the Free-to-Air Television Code”.  It contended that editorial direction was required to keep the story focused and manageable, for both the news consumer and the item’s production.

[17]   The broadcaster stated that the producer of the story deemed it unnecessary to state that shoplifting was a criminal offence as that fact was considered public knowledge. It maintained that the focus of the item was about the retail and consumer effects of shoplifting rather than how much police time was spent on the crime.

[18]   TVWorks argued that the item’s producer had assumed that viewers would supplement the information provided in the story with their own common sense. It contended that viewers would have realised the consequences of copying what Mr Davis had done.

[19]   With respect to the security camera footage of people stealing, the broadcaster argued that Campbell Live was not the first programme to broadcast this type of footage. It stated that “shoplifting, as the story reiterates, is not an unusual crime and is a widespread issue”. The broadcaster contended that nothing in the Campbell Live story glamorised shoplifting, or instructed or encouraged people to shoplift.

[20]   TVWorks stated that it did have permission to film in the stores and that the goods taken as part of the experiment were returned. It noted that Mr Davis’ credentials had been detailed with a baseline graphic that stated “security consultant”. It argued that, while the story did not explicitly state that it had permission to film and the goods were returned, it did not consider that it had any obligation to go beyond what was detailed in the item itself. It declined to uphold the complaint that the item breached Standard 2 (law and order).

[21]   With respect to balance, the broadcaster argued that the item had not discussed a controversial issue of public importance. It stated that “while petty crime such as shoplifting is of importance to all members of our society, we disagree that shoplifting is controversial in the sense there is an ongoing debate about it”. TVWorks declined to uphold the complaint that the item breached Standard 4.       

Authority's Determination

[22]   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.

Standard 2 (law and order)

[23]   The Authority has stated on previous occasions (e.g. Decision 2005-133) that the intent behind the law and order standard is to prevent broadcasts that encourage viewers to break the law or otherwise promote, condone or glamorise criminal activity.

[24]   In the Authority’s view, the item was about the commercial effects of shoplifting and the attitude and steps being taken by New Zealand retailers to deal with the issue. The item portrayed shoplifting in a negative light, outlining the cost and serious effects it was having on some New Zealand businesses. While the item did show footage of Mr Davis stealing items as an example of the relative ease involved in shoplifting, the item did not encourage viewers to act in a similar fashion or promote, condone or glamorise criminal activity.

[25]   The item left open the question of whether the goods taken by the security expert were returned, but the Authority concludes that a reasonable viewer would be aware that shoplifting is a crime and would have assumed that the items had been returned to the stores from which they were taken.

[26]   With respect to guideline 2c, the Authority finds that the item did not invite viewers to imitate the actions of Mr Davis, but rather showed that it was possible to shoplift and not get caught; a common fact of which most people are already aware. Furthermore, the item showed numerous examples of people shoplifting on security camera, which emphasised that many people do get caught.

[27]   The Authority notes that guideline 2e relates to the “realistic portrayal of anti-social behaviour”. This guideline is aimed at the fictional portrayal of anti-social behaviour in a realistic manner. Accordingly, guideline 2e does not apply to the broadcast of Mr Davis’ actions.

[28]   Accordingly, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint that the item breached Standard 2 (law and order).

Standard 4 (balance)

[29]   Standard 4 requires broadcasters to provide balance when discussing controversial issues of public importance. In the Authority’s view, this item did not discuss a controversial issue of public importance – there is no controversy surrounding the fact that shoplifting negatively affects retailers. Accordingly, the Authority finds that the balance standard did not apply to the item complained about. It declines to uphold the Standard 4 complaint.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
21 October 2008

Appendix

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

1.          Cameron Dewe’s formal complaint – 11 June 2008
2.         Mr Dewe’s referral to the Authority – 17 July 2008
3.         TVWorks’ response to the Authority – 5 August 2008