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Galpin and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2008-105

Members

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

Complainant

  • Victoria Galpin of Devonport

Dated

25th November 2008

Number

2008-105

Programme

One News promo

Channel/Station

TV One

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
One News promo – covered the conflict between Russia and Georgia – contained footage of an injured woman sitting in rubble with fire and destroyed buildings around her – allegedly in breach of children’s interests

Findings
Standard 9 (children’s interests) – footage of distressed and injured woman likely to be upsetting to children watching the Olympics – broadcaster did not adequately consider the interests of child viewers – upheld

No Order

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1]   A promo for One News, broadcast during coverage of the Olympic Games at approximately 5pm on Sunday 10 August 2008, contained the headlines of three stories. The first headline concerned a murder in Beijing during the Olympics, the second dealt with the conflict between Russia and Georgia and fears that civilians were being caught in the crossfire, and the third took a light-hearted look at the antics of American President George W. Bush at the Beijing Olympics.

[2]   When introducing the second headline, the presenter stated:

Caught in the crossfire, thousands of civilians are feared dead as fighting intensifies between Russia and Georgia.

[3]   During the presenter’s comments, brief footage was shown of an injured woman sitting in the rubble of several buildings that had been severely damaged by a blast, with a fire burning behind her. The woman was covered in dust and blood, and was holding out her hand for help. Footage was then shown of two soldiers running down a road carrying a motionless man in their arms.         

Complaint

[4]   Victoria Galpin made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the image of the injured woman in the promo breached Standard 9 (children’s interests).

[5]   Ms Galpin stated that she had been watching the Olympics with her three young children and was “horrified” to see a “gruesome scene” that “left my three-year-old son saying ‘look at the burning bodies mummy’”. Further, she said it was “disturbing to us as parents that our children were subjected to such horrific scenes”.

[6]   The complainant noted that news programmes were not subject to “censorship according to the guidelines”. Ms Galpin stated that she expected this and “therefore would not allow our children to watch the news due to its unpredictable nature”. However, she argued that advertisements for the news should adhere to broadcasting standards.  

Standards

[7]   TVNZ assessed Ms Galpin’s 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 (see Appendix 1), broadcasters are required, in the preparation and presentation of programmes, to consider the interests of child viewers.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[8]   TVNZ pointed out that the promo “did not contain any footage of burning bodies”. It stated that “one of the visuals, accompanying the Georgia and Russia headline, included footage of a woman sitting in piles of rubble” and that she was “sooty and distressed” and was holding out her hand for assistance. A fire was burning behind her, it said, but she was not on fire.

[9]   The broadcaster argued that the woman was shown as an example of what the presenter had described – a civilian caught in the crossfire of a military conflict. It noted the image was only on screen for three seconds and, at the same time, a One News “Coming Up at Six” banner ran across the bottom of the screen obscuring part of the image.

[10]   TVNZ considered that the inclusion of the image in a promo for One News did not constitute a breach of Standard 9, as it was not prolonged and its inclusion was not gratuitous. It also contended that the presenter provided a “verbal context to the inclusion of the image”.

[11]   The broadcaster stated that One News promos were designed to inform the audience of the daily leading news stories and that the “placement of these promos varies very little each day”. It found that appropriate care had been taken in the scheduling and content of the promo. TVNZ declined to uphold the complaint that the promo breached Standard 9.       

Referral to the Authority

[12]   Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s response, Ms Galpin referred her complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. She stated that, even though the promo did not contain images of burning bodies, it still required further investigation.

Authority's Determination

[13]   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.

[14]   At the outset, the Authority points out that the item complained about was a promo for One News, not an unclassified news programme. The promo was broadcast at 5pm during children’s normally accepted viewing times, and the Authority considers that it was highly likely that a number of unattended child viewers would have been watching the Olympics at that time of day.

[15]   In the Authority’s view, the image of the injured woman contained in the promo was graphic and disturbing. The soot and blood-covered woman was clearly immobilised and in distress. With flames visible behind her, it was not clear how close she was to the fire, or if she was in fact being burned. The Authority finds that this footage would have disturbed and alarmed child viewers, particularly because it was obviously real. It concludes that the broadcaster did not adequately consider the interests of child viewers by broadcasting the promo at 5pm during coverage of the Olympics.

[16]   Having reached this conclusion, the Authority must consider whether to uphold this part of the complaint as a breach of Standard 9. It acknowledges that upholding the Standard 9 complaint would place a limit on the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression, which is protected by section 14 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.

[17]   In Decision No. 2008-066, the Authority determined that upholding a complaint under Standard 9 would be prescribed by law and a justified limitation on the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression as required by section 5 of the Bill of Rights Act. In that decision, the Authority described the objective of Standard 9 in the following terms:

In the Authority’s view, the purpose of the children’s interests standard is to protect children from broadcasts which might adversely affect them.

[18]   With that in mind, the Authority must consider whether it would be a reasonable and proportionate limit on TVNZ’s freedom of expression to uphold a breach of Standard 9 on this occasion. It finds that upholding a breach of the children’s interests standard would ensure that broadcasters take care in choosing material to include in promos for news programmes which are broadcast during children’s normally accepted viewing times, so that children are not exposed to unsuitable material. In this respect, upholding the complaint clearly promotes the objective of Standard 9, and therefore places a justified and reasonable limit on TVNZ’s freedom of expression.

[19]   Accordingly, the Authority upholds the complaint that the promo breached Standard 9 (children’s interests).

 

For the above reasons the Authority upholds the complaint that a broadcast by Television New Zealand Ltd of a promo for One News on 10 August 2008 breached Standard 9 of the Free-to-Air Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[20]   Having upheld the complaint, the Authority may make orders under sections 13 and 16 of the Broadcasting Act 1989. It does not intend to do so on this occasion. The Authority is satisfied that its decision will serve as a reminder to those constructing news promos that they must exercise special care and discretion when deciding what material to include in promos broadcast in G-rated programmes and during children’s normally accepted viewing times.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
25 November 2008

Appendix

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

1.          Victoria Galpin’s formal complaint – 12 August 2008
2.          TVNZ’s response to the formal complaint – 10 September 2008
3.          Ms Galpin’s referral to the Authority – 18 September 2008
4.          TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 8 October 2008