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Healy and TV3 Network Services Ltd - 2002-199

Members

  • P Cartwright (Chair)
  • R Bryant
  • J H McGregor

Complainant

  • Warren Healy of Wellington

Dated

17th December 2002

Number

2002-199

Channel/Station

TV3

Broadcaster

TV3 Network Services Ltd


Complaint
Newsbreak – item about two children convicted of killing their father – inappropriate content – children’s programme – Thunderbirds

Findings
Standard 9, Guideline 9h – not disturbing or unsuitable for children – no uphold

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Summary

[1] A Newsbreak, during the children’s programme, Thunderbirds, was broadcast on TV3 at 2.30pm on Saturday 7 September 2002. One item covered the trial of two young schoolboys found guilty of killing their father with a baseball bat. The same item also mentioned that a convicted child molester had previously been tried for the same offence. The accompanying visual coverage showed courtroom scenes.

[2] Warren Healy complained to TV3 Network Services Ltd, the broadcaster, that the news item was totally inappropriate for broadcasting during the children’s programme, Thunderbirds.

[3] In declining to uphold the complaint, TV3 said there was nothing in the Newsbreak which was inappropriate for children’s viewing.

[4] Dissatisfied with TV3’s decision, Mr Healy referred his complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8 (1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

For the reasons below, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

Decision

[5] The members of the Authority have viewed a tape of the Newsbreak complained about and have read the correspondence, which is listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

The Programme

[6] A Newsbreak, during the children’s programme, Thunderbirds, reporting two items, was broadcast on TV3 at 2.30pm on Saturday 7 September 2002. According to TV3 Network Services Ltd, the broadcaster, the item complained about:

… reported on the outcome of a trial in the US in which two brothers were convicted of murdering their father by beating him with a baseball bat. Another man had been charged with the crime and had stood trial but the item reported that his verdict had been sealed awaiting the outcome of the trial of the two boys. There was a vision of the two boys sitting in the courtroom and a picture of their father; there were also courtroom shots of the trial of the other man charged with the crime.

The Complaint

[7] Mr Healy complained to TV3 that the news item complained about was totally inappropriate for broadcasting during the children’s programme Thunderbirds.

The Standards

[8] TV3 assessed Mr Healy’s complaint against Standard 9 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. The Standard (and relevant Guideline) 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.

Guideline

9h  In news breaks screened during programming specifically directed towards children, broadcasters should not normally use images or descriptions likely to alarm or disturb children, except in cases of public interest.

The Broadcaster’s Response to the Complainant

[9] In declining to uphold the complaint TV3 stated that as the item did not include any material inappropriate for children, it could not identify a breach of Standard 9.

[10] In relation to Standard 9, TV3 stated that although it did not identify a breach in this instance, the management had requested that particular care be taken by the broadcaster with newsbreaks during children’s viewing. It advised that a protocol incorporating this had been put in place.

[11] TV3 concluded that the Newsbreak did not breach Standard 9.

The Referral to the Authority

[12] Dissatisfied with TV3’s response, Mr Healy referred it to the Authority and wrote:

Clearly it is not the vision but the description that I believe would be disturbing for young viewers, and certainly not what I would expect [young children] to be subjected to during a G rated programme.

The Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[13] TV3 was of the view that "the material … was delivered in a constrained and matter-of-fact manner" and reiterated that it was "unlikely to be disturbing or alarming to watchers of Thunderbirds". TV3 also noted that Mr Healy’s recollection of the wording of the item was inaccurate and provided a transcript.

The Complainant’s Final Comment

[14] Mr Healy accepted that his recollection of the wording was inaccurate but he was of the view that the length of the item and its rapid delivery would not have made a difference to a child’s understanding of it.

The Authority’s Determination

[15] The Authority notes the regularity of the scheduled Newsbreak on TV3 and the care taken by the broadcaster to ensure that children’s interests are taken into account. The Authority agrees with the broadcaster that, in this instance, the reporting of the news was a matter of fact and that there were no images of violence or injury likely to alarm younger viewers.

[16] Of particular interest to the Authority is the protocol that has been put in place by the broadcaster to ensure consistency in the preparation and presentation of news items broadcast during children’s programming. In the Authority’s view this commitment to the protocol will assist in ensuring that issues like those raised by the complainant, are identified and dealt with adequately prior to broadcast.

[17] Accordingly, the Authority is satisfied that in this instance the news item did not breach Standard 9 of the Television Code. Furthermore it is persuaded that the protocol, now in place, will assist in ensuring the integrity of news items and children’s programming is not undermined.

[18] The Authority observes that to find a breach of broadcasting standards on this occasion would be to apply the Broadcasting Act 1989 in such a way as to limit freedom of expression in a manner which is not reasonable or demonstrably justifiable in a free and democratic society (s.5 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990). As required by s.6 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, the Authority adopts an interpretation of the relevant standards and applies them in a manner which it considers is consistent with and gives full weight to the provisions of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Cartwright
Chair
17 December 2002

Appendix

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

  1. Warren Healy’s Formal Complaint to TV3 Network Services Ltd – 17 September 2002
  2. TV3’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 9 October 2002
  3. Mr Healy’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 16 October 2002
  4. TV3’s Response to the Authority – 4 November 2002
  5. Mr Healy’s Final Comment – 18 November 2002