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Grieve and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2011-010

Members

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Mary Anne Shanahan

Complainant

  • Robin Grieve of Whangarei

Dated

29th March 2011

Number

2011-010

Programme

Sunday

Channel/Station

TV One

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Sunday – follow-up item on the use of sow crates in the pig farming industry – interviewed woman planning a whistle-blowing campaign offering rewards to farm workers for exposing cruel farming practices, and CEO of the New Zealand Pork Industry Board – allegedly in breach of law and order and fairness standards

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

Standard 6 (fairness) – no evidence that interview with New Zealand Pork Industry Board CEO was unfairly edited – as industry advocate he should expect robust questioning on these issues – not unfair – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision. 


Broadcast

[1]   An item on Sunday, broadcast on TV One at 7.30pm on 7 November 2010, followed up on an earlier item which revealed the reality of New Zealand’s pig farming industry. Some footage from the earlier item was shown, with a voiceover stating, “Mike King breaking into a piggery to reveal the harsh reality of our pig farming industry”. Summarising the earlier item, the presenter said, “Comedian Mike King, the face of the pork industry, decided to break into a farm and see for himself”.

[2]   In the first segment of the item, Sunday profiled “New Zealand’s richest woman” Jan Cameron and her recent bid to offer rewards to farm workers for “dobbing in” farmers engaging in cruel farming practices. Sunday spoke to Ms Cameron about her planned whistle-blowing campaign. The reporter stated that the Tasmanian State Government had vowed to abolish sow stalls by the year 2017, as a result of a “Sunday-style video exposé”. Some of the video was shown, and then the animal activist in the video was shown saying, “I think that the breaking in is very important because we need to show people what they’re consuming.” The activist later said, “I’ve actually seen quite a lot of footage of New Zealand break-ins and I’m appalled”.

[3]   The programme also presented the response of one Australian supermarket chain to consumers’ concerns about sow crates. It was reported that New Zealand supermarkets had declined the opportunity to appear in the item, and their statement was presented by the reporter.

[4]   The CEO of Rivalea in Australia, also a pig farmer, was interviewed and stated that in his view the use of sow crates did not constitute animal cruelty. At the conclusion of the item, Sunday interviewed the CEO of the New Zealand Pork Industry Board, Sam McIvor, who repeatedly made the same point using similar words, and these responses were edited together one after the other.

Complaint

[5]   Robin Grieve made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the item breached standards relating to law and order, and fairness.

[6]   Mr Grieve argued that “the whole tenor of this part of the programme was to give the impression that the illegal act of breaking into piggeries had led the Tasmanian State Government to abolish sow crates in 7 years time and that the New Zealand Government had not acted yet”. He noted that a woman was shown saying, “I think the breaking in is very important”. Mr Grieve considered that the programme therefore encouraged breaking the law so that the New Zealand Government would also ban sow crates. He said that “At no time did TVNZ express any reservation about the illegal nature of this activity.” Mr Grieve maintained that “the focus and the intent of this part of the programme was to condone, encourage and actively promote an illegal activity”.

[7]   With regard to fairness, Mr Grieve considered that Mr McIvor “was subjected to a cruel and humiliating piece of editing”. He argued that the CEO was ridiculed, which demonstrated that the programme was “biased and sensationalist”. He said that the contrasting treatment of Mr McIvor and the treatment of Jan Cameron was the basis of his fairness complaint. He wrote, “A woman who quite happily admitted to breaking the law was treated as if she had done nothing wrong. ...She was made out to be some sort of hero... [Mr McIvor] is doing his job, he has done nothing illegal and is not deceiving anyone. ...yet he was the one who was cruelly ridiculed.”

Standards

[8]   TVNZ assessed the complaint under Standards 2 and 6 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, which provide:

Standard 2 Law and Order

Broadcasters should observe standards consistent with the maintenance of law and order.

Standard 6 Fairness

Broadcasters should deal fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[9]   TVNZ argued that to find a breach of Standard 2, it must be convinced that a broadcast actively promoted disrespect for the law. It noted that the Authority had previously stated that the intent behind the law and order standard was to prevent broadcasts that encouraged viewers to break the law, or otherwise promoted, glamorised or condoned criminal activity.1

[10]   The broadcaster maintained that the purpose of originally screening the footage of the sow crates was “to expose the incidence of distressed and unhealthy animals within New Zealand’s pork industry”. It said that some of the footage was rebroadcast in the follow-up item to provide context for Jan Cameron’s actions. TVNZ maintained that Sunday did not condone the means of obtaining the original footage, but rather that it screened the footage in the public interest of forcing action to be taken regarding the pigs’ living conditions. It considered that, “Although the item showed footage obtained by covert means, the item did not encourage viewers to adopt similar behaviour.” While the item contained verbal references to “breaking the law”, in no way was the programme suggesting that viewers should do the same, TVNZ said.

[11]   The broadcaster noted that the Authority had previously found that the use of similar footage in Close Up did not breach Standard 2.2 It maintained that the focus of both the original footage and the follow-up item was sick and injured animals, and the actions being taken to combat this. It was of the view that there was public interest in alerting viewers to this issue of animal welfare and to the subsequent steps being taken to limit the use of sow crates.

[12]   For these reasons, TVNZ declined to uphold the Standard 2 complaint.

[13]   Turning to consider Standard 6 (fairness), TVNZ maintained that all of the participants in the item were fully informed of the nature of their participation in the programme and were given ample opportunity to present their views.

[14]   The broadcaster noted that the fairness standard required broadcasters to exercise care and discretion in editing programme material to ensure that the extracts used are not a distortion of the original event or the overall views expressed (guideline 6b). The footage of Mr McIvor was edited so that there was a montage of him saying the same thing repeatedly, it said. This was an accurate portrayal of the interview, TVNZ argued, and clearly presented Mr McIvor’s perspective on the issues. TVNZ did not consider that “the fact that he repeated himself a number of times in answer to different questions and [that] this was edited together constitutes unfairness toward him”. It also disagreed that Sunday ridiculed him. The issue under discussion was contentious, it said, and as CEO of the New Zealand Pork Industry Board, Mr McIvor “would expect to be robustly interviewed on such a contentious issue for his industry”. TVNZ disagreed that the activists were presented as “heroes” as alleged by Mr Grieve, and considered that “they were presented for what they are, namely, passionate activists who believe in their cause”.

[15]   TVNZ concluded that no one in the item was treated unfairly, and it declined to uphold the Standard 6 complaint.

Referral to the Authority

[16]   Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Mr Grieve referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

[17]   Mr Grieve considered that TVNZ had not presented any evidence to support its argument that Sunday did not condone illegal activity. He maintained that by exposing the “breaking in”, not questioning the legality of it, and giving the activists prime time coverage, the broadcaster had condoned illegal acts. In particular, he noted that the item included a woman saying “I think the breaking in is very important”. He considered that the activists were glamorised, and their actions credited with achieving change, without their illegal activities being questioned. Mr Grieve argued that public interest was not a defence under Standard 2, and noted that pig farming was not illegal.

[18]   Mr Grieve was of the view that the previous decision by the Authority cited by TVNZ related to an item with a different focus and purpose.

[19]   With regard to Standard 6, the complainant maintained that the different treatment of Jan Cameron and Mr McIvor was unfair. He reiterated his view that editing together footage of Mr McIvor’s interview was designed to ridicule him.

Authority's Determination

[20]   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 2 (law and order)

[21]   Mr Grieve considered that by profiling the Tasmanian situation, the programme encouraged breaking the law to compel the New Zealand Government to also ban sow crates. He said that “At no time did TVNZ express any reservation about the illegal nature of this activity [breaking in]”, and maintained that “the focus and the intent of this part of the programme was to condone, encourage and actively promote an illegal activity”, namely, “the illegal act of breaking into piggeries”.

[22]   The Authority has previously noted that the code does not prohibit broadcasters filming or broadcasting illegal or criminal activity (e.g. Preston and TVWorks3). It has stated on a number of occasions that the intent behind the law and order standard is to prevent broadcasts that encourage viewers to break the law or otherwise promote, glamorise or condone criminal activity (see, for example, Taylor and TVWorks4).

[23]   On this occasion, the item included footage obtained earlier of an animal activist and Mike King when they broke into pig farms. We note that it was the activist, when interviewed for the item, who said, “I think that the breaking in is very important because we need to show people what they’re consuming”. We consider that this was clearly her opinion, and that the broadcaster did not adopt that view, or take a position on breaking into pig farms. Viewers were not encouraged to act similarly, and were left to form their own opinions on the merits of breaking into the farms.

[24]   In our view, the story did not focus on whether people should be breaking into pig farms in order to get the New Zealand Government to take action. Rather, the item’s focus was Jan Cameron, who had chosen to put her own resources behind a campaign to expose cruelty in pig farming, not by encouraging people to break in, but by encouraging farm workers to come forward, and promoting public awareness.

[25]   We therefore find that the programme did not encourage viewers to break the law, or otherwise promote, condone or glamorise criminal activity, and we decline to uphold the Standard 2 complaint.

Standard 6 (fairness)

[26]   Standard 6 states that broadcasters should deal fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to in a programme.

[27]   Mr Grieve argued that the contrasting treatment of Ms Cameron and Sam McIvor from the New Zealand Pork Industry Board was unfair to Mr McIvor, particularly the “cruel and humiliating piece of editing” from his interview.

[28]   In our view, there is no evidence to suggest that the editing of the interview, which showed Mr McIvor repeatedly giving a similar response, gave an unfair or inaccurate impression of what he said. TVNZ was entitled to make the point that he had given the same answer in response to a number of different questions. We consider that, as an advocate for the New Zealand pork industry, Mr McIvor should have expected robust questioning on the issue of alleged cruelty in pig farming, which had recently received substantial media coverage and went to the heart of the industry.

[29]   Accordingly, we find that the broadcaster treated Mr McIvor fairly, and we decline to uphold the Standard 6 complaint.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
29 March 2011

Appendix

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

1                  Robin Grieve’s formal complaint – 26 November 2010

2                 TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 22 December 2010

3                 Mr Grieve’s referral to the Authority – 24 January 2011

4                 TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 10 February 2011


1For example, Gregory and TVNZ, Decision No. 2005-133

2Grieve and Young and TVNZ, Decision No. 2010-104

3Decision No. 2008-016

4Decision No. 2010-008