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McClean and TVWorks Ltd - 2007-137

Dated

19th February 2008

Number

2007-137

Programme

3 News

Channel/Station

TV3

Broadcaster

TVWorks Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
3 News – item on the sentencing of convicted rapist Roger Kahui included a brief re-enactment showing actor forcing entry into victim’s home – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency, law and order, programme information, children’s interests and violence standards

Findings
Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – item made it clear to viewers that it was a re-enactment – stylised dramatisation – contextual factors – not upheld

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

Standard 9 (children’s interests) – item was brief – unlikely to disturb child viewers – not upheld

Standard 10 (violence) – broadcaster exercised sufficient care and discretion – not upheld

Standard 8 (programme information) – standard not relevant – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1]   An item on 3 News broadcast at 6pm on 12 October 2007, reported on the sentencing of Roger Kahui to preventive detention for rape. During the segment a brief re-enactment was shown of an actor playing Mr Kahui forcing his way inside his victim’s home and forcing a female actor playing the victim to the ground, and struggling with her.    

Complaint

[2]   Genevieve McClean made a formal complaint to TVWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the re-enactment glamorised criminal activity, misled the public, was unsuitable for children, was gratuitously violent and showed a “dismally low standard of journalism”.

Standards

[3]   TVWorks assessed the complaint under Standards 1, 2, 8, 9 and 10 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. These provide

Standard 1 Good Taste and Decency

In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are responsible for maintaining standards which are consistent with the observance of good taste and decency.

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.

Standard 8 Programme Information

Broadcasters are responsible for ensuring that programme information and structure does not deceive or disadvantage the viewer.

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.

Standard 10 Violence

In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are required to exercise care and discretion when dealing with the issue of violence.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[4]   TVWorks stated that to constitute a breach of Standard 1, the material broadcast must be unacceptable to a significant number of viewers in the context in which it was shown. It argued that the programme had an adult target audience and that a significant number of viewers would not have found the item offensive.

[5]   The broadcaster stated that the re-enactment was “shown in monochrome and used blurring and soft focus techniques to enhance its surreal quality and distance the events being re-enacted from reality”. 

[6]   The broadcaster maintained the report “simply showed footage, including a brief re-enactment, relevant to Kahui’s sentencing” and that the re-enactment was “relatively benign – particularly given the focus and context of the item”. TVWorks declined to uphold the good taste and decency complaint.

[7]   With respect to Standard 2 (law and order), TVWorks noted that the Authority had stated on previous occasions that the intent behind the standard was to prevent broadcasts that encouraged viewers to break the law or otherwise promoted, condoned or glamorised criminal activity.

[8]   The broadcaster stated that there was nothing in the item that would encourage viewers to break the law and that it was clear from the content of the item that Mr Kahui’s criminal activities were not being promoted, condoned or glamorised.

[9]   TVWorks pointed out that the programme information standard was directed at programming information and structures that would deceive or disadvantage viewers. It argued that the item did not contain any material “reasonably capable or deceiving or disadvantaging viewers as contemplated by the standard”.

[10]  With respect to Standard 9 (children’s interests) the broadcaster considered that no warning was necessary as the item did not contain any material that would have disturbed or alarmed child viewers. It also noted that “the prevailing expectation is that parental/caregiver supervision will be provided to children during news programming which is targeted at adults”. TVWorks declined to uphold the complaint that the item breached children’s interests standards.

[11]   TVWorks argued that the violence depicted in the re-enactment was largely implied rather than explicit, was fittingly brief and had reduced “potency due to the careful treatment afforded to it”. It maintained that given the focus of the item and the contextual factors, the violence shown in the item was justified. The broadcaster declined to uphold the violence complaint.   

Referral to the Authority

[12]   Dissatisfied with TVWorks’ response, Ms McClean referred her complaint to the Authority under section 8(1)(a) of the broadcasting Act 1989.

[13]   The complainant stated that news bulletins should show news without censorship, but that the bulletins should not be modified by inappropriate editing. She maintained that “the inclusion of a re-enactment of a violent scene in lieu of other additional footage to illustrate a story subjectively was unacceptably indecent”.

[14]   Ms McClean argued that the blurring and soft focus techniques used in the re-enactment did not subdue the violent nature of the item, but rather intensified it by “providing an illustration to viewers in a sensate way”.

[15]   The complainant stated that her main concern with the style of the re-enactment was the fact that it was done in a dramatic fashion that gave viewers the effect of “direct involvement in a violent act”. She argued that the style of the re-enactment glamorised Mr Kahui’s criminal activity.

[16]   Ms McClean believed that the re-enactment gave viewers the implication “that it was a re-enactment of something that really happened”. She maintained that viewers would be “deceived and disadvantaged if they took the dramatisation as something that really happened”. 

[17]   The complainant reiterated her argument that children would have found the item disturbing and that it was of no useful relevance to the news story.

[18]   Ms McClean considered the violence contained in the re-enactment to be gratuitous and designed to titillate and/or shock viewers.

Authority's Determination

[19]   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 10 (violence)  

[20]   The violence standard requires broadcasters to exercise care and discretion when dealing with the issue of violence. On this occasion, Ms McClean has complained about a re-enactment showing an actor forcing entry into a victim’s home, pushing her to the ground and struggling with her. The re-enactment was 16 seconds in length, eight seconds of which showed “violence” for the purposes of Standard 10.

[21]   The Authority notes that the re-enactment was shown in stylised monochrome and it was blurred around the edges. It considers that this gave the footage the feeling of being a representation of what had occurred, rather than actual footage. In addition, the re-enactment did not include any sound effects, but was instead accompanied by the reporter’s dialogue. In the Authority’s view, these factors would have lessened the impact of the re-enactment on viewers.

[22]   Further, the re-enactment focused solely on the forced entry of the attacker into his victim’s home and ended with him pushing her to the ground, and it did not depict the more violent and horrendous acts for which Mr Kahui was being sentenced to preventive detention.

[23]   The Authority also observes that the item was broadcast during 3 News, which is an unclassified programme targeted at adult viewers. Taking into account the above factors, the Authority finds that the broadcaster exercised sufficient care and discretion when dealing with the issue of violence on this occasion. It declines to uphold the Standard 10 (violence) complaint.

Standard 1 (good taste and decency)

[24]   When the Authority considers a complaint that alleges a breach of good taste and decency, it is required to take into account the context of the broadcast. On this occasion, the relevant contextual factors include:

  • the item was broadcast during an unclassified news programme 
  • 3 News has an adult target audience 
  • the item made it clear to viewers that it was a re-enactment 
  • the re-enactment was brief.

[25]   At the outset, the Authority observes that it is unusual to see a dramatic representation of an actual event in a news item. It acknowledges the complainant’s concern at what might be perceived as a blurring of the line between the dramatic and the factual, particularly when it is of a violent scene.

[26]   However, the Authority considers that the item made it clear to viewers that it was a re-enactment, which was evident from the fact that the words “re-enactment” appeared on the screen and that it was shown in blurred, stylised monochrome. Taking the above contextual factors into account, the Authority declines to uphold the Standard 1 (good taste and decency) complaint.

Standard 9 (children’s interests)

[27]   Standard 9 states that during children’s normally accepted viewing times, broadcasters are required, in the preparation and presentation of programmes, to consider the interests of child viewers. Although the 3 News itemwas broadcast during children’s normally accepted viewing times, the Authority notes that it was part of a news and current affairs programme, and that such programmes are unclassified. The Authority has also previously acknowledged that few children watch the news unattended.

[28]   In the Authority’s view, the re-enactment would have been unlikely to disturb or alarm child viewers. As mentioned above, the re-enactment was brief and was clearly not “real” footage of an actual event. The blurry edges and dark monochrome would have made it difficult for child viewers to appreciate what they were seeing.

[29]   In these circumstances, the Authority considers that the broadcaster gave sufficient consideration to child viewers on this occasion. Accordingly, it declines to uphold the children’s interests complaint.

Standard 2 (law and order)

[30]   The Authority has stated on previous occasions (e.g. Decision No. 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.

[31]   In the Authority’s view, the item did not contain any material that could be said to encourage viewers to break the law or otherwise promote, condone or glamorise criminal activity. Accordingly, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint that the item breach Standard 2.

Standard 8 (programme information) 

[32]   Standard 8 requires broadcasters to ensure that the programme’s information and structure does not deceive or disadvantage the viewer. Due to the stylised monochrome and the labelling of the item as a “re-enactment”, the Authority considers that viewers would not have been misled or deceived into thinking what they were seeing was real footage of the actual crime. Accordingly, the Authority concludes that viewers were adequately informed by the broadcaster and it declines to uphold the programme information complaint.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
19 February 2008

Appendix

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

1.            Genevieve McClean’s formal complaint – 12 October 2007
2.           TVWorks’ response to the formal complaint – 8 November 2007
3.           Ms McClean’s referral to the Authority – 5 December 2007
4.           TVWorks’ response to the Authority – 22 December 2007