Skip to main content

Conroy and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2001-061

Members

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

Complainant

  • Roger Conroy of Dunedin

Dated

21st June 2001

Number

2001-061

Channel/Station

TV One

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd


Complaint
Our World: Clever Dicks – Part 2 – clever creatures shown – image of kea in AMI Insurance advertisement included – kea prising tail light from vehicles – inaccurate representation of kea

Findings
Standard G1 – image not a point of fact – no uphold

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Summary

Our World: Clever Dicks – Part 2, broadcast on TV One at 8.05pm on 17 March 2001, included footage of New Zealand’s kea rapidly completing a series of tasks which, on the face of it, seemed to require a certain amount of reasoning to accomplish. An image of kea prising the tail lights from vehicles, drawn from an advertisement for AMI Insurance, was also included.

Roger Conroy complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the programme featuring the advertisement was inaccurate when it showed kea prising the tail lights out of vehicles. He said kea did not behave in such a manner, although they sometimes damaged or removed rubber and plastic from vehicles. He also objected to an advertisement being shown during the item.

When he did not hear from the broadcaster within the statutory 20 working days, Mr Conroy referred his complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under section 8(1)(b) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

TVNZ responded to the Authority that nothing in Mr Conroy’s original letter of complaint indicated he was invoking the formal complaints process. It apologised to the complainant and provided the Authority with a response to the formal complaint.

TVNZ declined to uphold the complaint, stating that the advertisement had been used "to illustrate a perception New Zealanders have of the mischievous and sometimes irritating behaviour of kea." The idea of perception was in contrast to the specific intelligence tests to which the bird was subsequently subjected, it said.

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

Decision

The members of the Authority have viewed a tape of the item complained about and have read the correspondence which is listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines this complaint without a formal hearing.

Our World: Clever Dicks – Part 2, broadcast on TV One at 8.05pm on 17 March 2001, aimed to demonstrate the cleverness of some creatures. It included footage of New Zealand’s mountain parrot, the kea, rapidly completing a series of tasks which, on the face of it, seemed to require a certain amount of reasoning to accomplish. An image of kea prising the tail lights from vehicles, drawn from an advertisement for AMI Insurance, was also included.

Roger Conroy complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the programme featuring the advertisement was inaccurate when it showed kea prising the tail lights out of vehicles. He said kea did not behave in such a manner, although he conceded they sometimes damaged or removed rubber and plastic from vehicles. He also objected to an advertisement being shown during the item.

When he did not hear from the broadcaster within the statutory 20 working days, Mr Conroy referred his complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under section 8(1)(b) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He said he had written twice to TVNZ and that the broadcaster had passed his letter on to Natural History New Zealand Ltd, a production company. Natural History had subsequently telephoned Mr Conroy to say it would post his letter back to him because it was not connected with the subject of his complaint.

TVNZ responded directly to the Authority. The broadcaster said there had been nothing in Mr Conroy’s original letter of complaint to indicate he was invoking the formal complaints process. As a consequence, his letter had not been through the formal complaints process. The broadcaster apologised to the complainant that no-one in the company had responded to his letter, and provided the Authority with a response to the formal complaint.

TVNZ said Our World: Clever Dicks had been a joint production of the BBC and Discovery Channel, screened on successive Saturday nights. An extract from a New Zealand television advertisement for AMI had been included in Part 2 of the programme, showing a kea attacking a stationary car, tearing off rubber strips and dislodging the tail lights.

The broadcaster assessed the complaint under standard G1 of the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, which states:

G1  Broadcasters are required to be truthful and accurate on points of fact.

In TVNZ’s view, the advertisement had been shown

to illustrate a perception New Zealanders have of the mischievous and sometimes irritating behaviour of kea. This idea of perception was in contrast to the specific intelligence tests to which the bird was subsequently subjected.

The broadcaster said the fact that the material came from an advertisement had not been concealed. AMI’s logo had been shown, indicating to viewers that they were seeing the kea being represented through the medium of advertising, in contrast to the subsequent indicators of the kea’s intelligence revealed through tests with cheese.

Declining to uphold the complaint as a breach of standard G1, TVNZ stated:

The [complaints] committee did not accept that the sequence shown in the programme was inaccurate or untruthful. It indicated accurately the perception we as New Zealanders have of the parrot’s behaviour, a perception perpetuated in the well-known advertisement, and by signs which are found at various South Island mountain car parks.

With regard to Mr Conroy’s objection to an advertisement forming part of the programme, TVNZ said none of the broadcasting standards appeared to apply, and it could see no reason why an image created by advertising should not form a valid part of any documentary.

In his final comment, Mr Conroy maintained there was nothing to warn viewers that the extract in the programme had come from an advertisement. He said the letters AMI had appeared on screen after the footage of the kea had been shown. The complainant took issue with TVNZ’s argument that the advertisement illustrated a perception New Zealanders had of kea. He said any "normal person" watching the programme would have believed the sequence was factual, given that it followed on from other factual clips. Mr Conroy also reiterated his dislike of advertisements being used in the body of a programme.

The Authority’s Findings

Standard G1 of the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice requires broadcasters to be truthful and accurate on points of fact. The Authority concurs with the broadcaster that the images of the kea, drawn from an AMI Insurance advertisement, illustrated a perception of their behaviour widely held in New Zealand. The images were not "points of fact" on which the broadcaster was required to be accurate.

With regard to the complainant’s dislike of an advertisement being used in the body of the programme, the Authority notes the matter is not one which is covered by the broadcasting standards. In addition, the complainant is expressing a personal preference, which section 5 of the Broadcasting Act 1989 specifically precludes from being considered under the formal complaints procedure.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Cartwright
Chair
21 June 2001

Appendix

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

  1. Roger Conroy’s Formal Complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd – 11 April 2001
  2. Mr Conroy’s Referral to the Authority – 24 April 2001
  3. TVNZ’s Response to the Authority – 7 May 2001
  4. Mr Conroy’s Final Comment – 19 May 2001