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Boardman and TVWorks Ltd - 2011-167

Members

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

Complainant

  • Ralph Boardman of Christchurch

Dated

28th February 2012

Number

2011-167

Programme

Nightline

Channel/Station

TV3

Broadcaster

TVWorks Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Nightline – item reported that Jeremy Clarkson had apologised for his comments that striking workers should be shot – allegedly in breach of law and order, discrimination and denigration, and violence standards

Findings
Standard 2 (law and order) – item was a straightforward news report about Mr Clarkson’s comments – broadcasting the comments did not encourage viewers to break the law – not upheld

Standard 7 (discrimination and denigration) – re-broadcasting Mr Clarkson’s comments did not encourage the denigration of, or discrimination against, a section of the community – not upheld

Standard 10 (violence) – item did not contain any violence – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision


Introduction

[1]  An item on Nightline, broadcast on TV3 at 10.45pm on 2 December 2011, reported on controversial comments made by British television presenter Jeremy Clarkson, that striking workers should be shot. The item was introduced as follows:

Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson has apologised after saying that workers who went on strike in Britain should be shot. But his act of contrition has been dismissed as half-hearted and there are growing calls for Clarkson to be sacked.

[2]  As part of the item, Mr Clarkson’s original comments were broadcast, in which he said, “...I’d have them all shot. I would take them outside and execute them in front of their families”. The item also broadcast a statement from Mr Clarkson which said, “I didn’t for a moment intend these remarks to be taken seriously – as I believe is clear if they’re seen in context. If the BBC and I have caused any offence, I’m quite happy to apologise for it alongside them.”

[3]  Ralph Boardman made a formal complaint to TVWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the item, and in particular the broadcast of Mr Clarkson’s original comments, breached standards relating to law and order, discrimination and denigration, and violence.

[4]  The issue is whether the item breached Standards 2 (law and order), 7 (discrimination and denigration) and 10 (violence) of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[5]  We have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

Did the item encourage viewers to break the law or promote criminal activity?

[6]  The Authority has previously stated 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, Keane and TVNZ1).

[7]  TVWorks maintained that the item did not encourage viewers to break the law. It argued that there was public interest in the comments, and the story could not be told without including the comments. It considered that the news team could not limit or filter what it reported based on an estimation of what a “mentally deranged individual” might do. In any case it considered Mr Clarkson’s comments were clearly hyperbole and most viewers would have understood they were not intended to be taken seriously.

[8]  In our view, the item complained about was a legitimate and straightforward news report on controversial comments made by a well-known television presenter which had attracted considerable publicity. We also note that Nightline is an unclassified news programme, targeted at adults and broadcast at 10.45pm. We do not consider that reporting on the comments or re-broadcasting them in this context encouraged viewers to break the law or otherwise promoted, glamorised or condoned criminal activity.

[9]  We therefore decline to uphold the complaint that the item breached Standard 2 (law and order).

Did the item encourage discrimination or denigration?

[10]  Standard 7 protects against broadcasts which encourage denigration of, or discrimination against, a section of the community.

[11]  TVWorks argued that the story broadcast Mr Clarkson’s opinion and discussed his comments. It argued that his comments did not amount to hate speech or vitriol and that nothing in the story denigrated a “recognised section of society”.

[12]  As noted above, the item subject to complaint was a straightforward news report. We do not consider that by simply re-broadcasting Mr Clarkson’s comments, in the context of a legitimate news item, TVWorks encouraged denigration or discrimination against a section of the community. We therefore decline to uphold the complaint under Standard 7.

Did the broadcaster exercise adequate care and discretion when dealing with the issue of violence?

[13]  Standard 10 states that broadcasters should exercise care and discretion when dealing with the issue of violence.

[14]  The broadcaster argued that the suggestion of violence in Mr Clarkson’s comments was at the heart of the controversy and needed to be reported, and was therefore not gratuitous.

[15]  In our view, the broadcast of Mr Clarkson’s comments did not amount to “violence” as envisaged by Standard 10. In any case, we reiterate that the item was broadcast at 10.45pm during an unclassified news programme targeted at an adult audience.

[16]  We decline to uphold the complaint that the item breached Standard 10.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
28 February 2012

Appendix

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

1                  Ralph Boardman’s formal complaint – 5 December 2011

2                 TVWorks’ response to the complaint – 5 December 2011

3                 Mr Boardman’s referral to the Authority – 7 December 2011

4                 TVWorks’ response to the Authority – 13 January 2012

5                 Further comments from Mr Boardman – 25 January 2012

6                 TVWorks’ final comment – 1 February 2012

7                 Mr Boardman’s final comment – 3 February 2012


1Decision No. 2010-082