Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Toi Whakaari – kapa haka performance at national competition – male performers used weaponry – facial expressions and body language allegedly aggressive – allegedly in breach of children’s interests
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.
 Māori Television broadcast Toi Whakaari on 3 June 2005 at 6.30pm. The programme showcased Māori performing arts. In this instance, the programme covered a kapa haka group representing its region at a national competition earlier in the year.
 R D Hutchins complained to Māori Television that the item was unsuitable for, and disturbing and detrimental to, children. He asserted that the male performers in the haka used unprotected tomahawks as weapons which were “brandished and manipulated in a repeatedly threatening manner”.
 He claimed that the sharp cutting edges of the blades were clearly emphasised. Noting also that the male performers concealed the weapons behind their backs, he considered this demonstrated the intention of a surprise attack.
 Mr Hutchins also considered the overall tone of the item to be expressing physical aggression, illustrated through “loud stamping, vocal ferocity and extreme facial gestures of hostility.”
 The complainant was of the view that this material was broadcast too early in the evening, and at a time when children were still among the viewing audience. He considered that such material should be restricted to older viewers.
 Māori Television assessed the complaint under Standard 9 and Guideline 9a of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, which provide:
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.
 In its response to the complaint, Māori Television referred to the Broadcasting Act 1989 and the Māori Television Service (Te Aratuku Whakaata Irirangi Māori) Act 2003. It noted that these statutes require it to ensure that all its programmes are broadcast within suitable and appropriate timebands.
 Māori Televison considered that Toi Whakaari was broadcast within an appropriate timeband. It did not accept that the programme was unsuitable for children.
 It noted that kapa haka is an essential part of Māori culture, and submitted that this type of programme should be made available to all New Zealanders, including children.
 Dissatisfied with the response from the broadcaster, Mr Hutchins referred his complaint to the Authority under s8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.
 He reiterated the concerns raised in the formal complaint to the broadcaster. He considered the importance of the kapa haka in Māori culture was irrelevant to his complaint. He emphasised that his concerns focussed on the suitability of such material for young children watching television before the 8.30pm watershed. Moreover, the complainant argued, “claiming cultural validation” did not absolve the broadcaster from operating according to the requirements of the Broadcasting Act.
 In its response to the Authority, Māori Television noted that haka was taught to children in many schools, and that weaponry was used. It observed that such material was broadcast on networks other than Māori Television.
 It considered that a G-rating for this episode of Toi Whaakari was entirely appropriate and in keeping with statutory requirements.
 In response to the broadcaster’s comments, Mr Hutchins noted that he was not complaining about the broadcast of haka in general, but the specific haka detailed in his complaint. He reiterated his concerns about the particular haka shown on Toi Whakaari, and its suitability for broadcast in the early evening.
 Mr Hutchins considered that Māori Television’s statement that weaponry was used when the haka is taught in schools avoided addressing his complaint in respect of the specific weapons in the item. He considered that the tomahawks or hatchets used in the item were “brandished” in a threatening manner.
 He asserted that his complaint centred not only on the type of weapons used but also on the accompanying body language, noting the “loud insistent stamping” and ”scornful hostile intimidating voices”. He quoted Sir Peter Buck in The Coming of the Maori describing the “ferocity of facial expression”. Mr Hutchins was of the view that young children should not see such material because of their sensitivity and vulnerability.
 The members of the Authority have viewed a tape of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.
 Mr Hutchins complained that the use of tomahawks in the kapa haka was unsuitable for child viewers. Although the Authority notes the inclusion of tomahawks was unusual for a kapa haka performance, it considers that the stylised nature of the haka clearly highlighted the item as a theatrical showpiece. Accordingly, it considers that the incorporation of such weaponry was not overly menacing.
 The complainant also considered that the tone of the performance was aggressive and thus unsuitable for child viewers. While the Authority agrees that the item was broadcast during children’s normally accepted viewing times, it observes that the performance did not consist only, or even mainly, of the simulated hostility noted by the complainant. A substantial part of the item included non-aggressive songs and performances within the same kapa haka routine. These segments of the performance occurred between the excerpts complained of by Mr Hutchins.
 The Authority considers that the inclusion of these aspects of the performance softened any simulated aggression included in the item. In particular, it highlighted that the kapa haka was unmistakably a theatrical performance. Consequently, given the absence of real violence within the confines of a stylised performance, the Authority is of the view that the item would have been unlikely to disturb or alarm child viewers.
 The Authority has previously considered a complaint from Mr Hutchins that a kapa haka performance threatened Standard 9. In Decision No. 2005-064, the Authority noted:
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 Whaakari.
 The Authority sees no reason to depart from that approach in the present case. Accordingly, the Authority considers that the item did not breach Standard 9.
For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
20 September 2005
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint: