Skip to main content

Beardsley and TVWorks Ltd - 2012-020

Members

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

Complainant

  • Tracy Beardsley of Twizel

Dated

1st May 2012

Number

2012-020

Programme

3 News

Channel/Station

TV3

Broadcaster

TVWorks Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
3 News – item reported on likely ban of guided heli-hunting on conservation land – contained file footage of commercial deer recovery – footage allegedly inaccurate, misleading and unfair

Findings
Standard 5 (accuracy) – footage of commercial hunting would have misled viewers to believe that it applied directly to the story – footage should have been explained to ensure that viewers understood it related to commercial hunting which is a completely different industry to heli-hunting – broadcaster did not make reasonable efforts to ensure that the item did not mislead – upheld

Standard 6 (fairness) – commercial hunting industry was not an “organisation” for the purposes of the standard – not upheld

No Order

This headnote does not form part of the decision. 


Introduction

[1]  An item on 3 News, broadcast on TV3 on 6 December 2011, reported on the likely ban of guided heli-hunting on conservation land under a confidence and supply agreement between the National Government and United Future. It showed extensive footage of commercial hunting, as opposed to guided heli-hunting, in which hunters were shown shooting at deer from helicopters. The item included the following comments:

  • “According to Peter Dunne, the practice of using a chopper to herd animals towards a hunter is inhumane...” (presenter)
  • “Heli-hunting, where it is used to herd and haze the animals, in other words it’s part of the hunting process, which is simply inhumane, it’s unfair to the animal and it’s not really a sport.” (Peter Dunne)
  • “Commercial helicopter hunting has been established in New Zealand for more than 40 years, but it’s the recent surge in guided airborne hunting that’s upset ground hunters. Especially where animals are shot from the air or the pilot drops off its customers and herds the animals towards them.” (reporter by voiceover)

[2]  Tracy Beardsley made a formal complaint to TVWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the footage used in the item was false and misleading as it was approximately 10 years old and related to commercial deer recovery – a completely different industry to guided heli-hunting. She sought a broadcast apology on TV3, including an explanation that the footage was of commercial hunting which had no connection to aerially assisted guided hunting.

[3]  The issue is whether the item, and specifically the footage of commercial hunting, breached Standards 5 (accuracy) and 6 (fairness) of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[4]  The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

Was the item, and specifically the footage of commercial hunting, inaccurate or misleading?

[5]  Standard 5 (accuracy) states that broadcasters should make reasonable efforts to ensure that news, current affairs and factual programming is accurate in relation to all material points of fact, and does not mislead. The objective of this standard is to protect audiences from receiving misinformation and thereby being misled.1

[6]  Ms Beardsley argued that the footage was false, inaccurate and out of context, reflecting a lack of research on the part of the reporter. She asserted that a lot of effort went into the marketing of wild venison, which was undermined by the news item associating that industry with tourism and guiding. 

[7]  TVWorks accepted that the footage in the item was archive footage that was “mostly, if not all of commercial recovery”. It provided comment from the relevant news staff, who advised that they could not obtain footage of how some aspects of guided heli-hunting were conducted, but considered that the activity shown in the footage was not materially different to heli-hunting.

[8]  We accept the complainant’s contention that heli-hunting (the focus of the story) is a completely different industry to commercial hunting – the type of hunting shown extensively throughout the item. By way of explanation, heli-hunting operators usually fly a hunter and his guide into a location, locate deer before dropping them off, and often herd the deer towards the hunter. Once a trophy is secured, they will fly out again. It does not involve shooting from the helicopter and is a tourism-based industry. In contrast, commercial hunting involves shooting the animal from a helicopter for human consumption and is an export-based industry.

[9]  We disagree with TVWorks that the distinction between heli-hunting and commercial hunting was clarified verbally by Peter Dunne and the reporter (see paragraph [1]). To the contrary, we consider that the comments in the item created confusion about the distinction between the two industries because, while reference was made to both commercial and heli-hunting, no explanation was given as to how the two types of hunting differed.

[10]  The use of extensive footage of commercial hunting in a news item about heli-hunting was misleading in our view, because it created the impression that the activity shown in the item was likely to be banned on conservation land.

[11]  Having found that the use of the footage was misleading, we must consider whether the broadcaster made reasonable efforts to ensure that the item did not mislead.

[12]  While we acknowledge the contention that footage of how some aspects of heli-hunting were conducted could not be obtained, this does not absolve the broadcaster from the requirement to make reasonable efforts to ensure that the footage used did not mislead viewers. The footage could have been identified as file footage of commercial hunting, for example by labelling it as such, or by including an explicit statement in the broadcast to this effect, and an explanation of why it was different to the activity under discussion. The Authority has previously stated that file footage should be identified if there is any chance of creating the impression that it applies directly to the story, when it does not.2 

[13]  Therefore, we find that upholding the complaint would be a proportionate and reasonable limit on the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression which is guaranteed by the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. We are not making a finding that TVWorks ought not to have used the footage, but simply that it should have explicitly identified it as file footage, and made it clear in the item that the footage related to commercial hunting which was a completely different industry to that reported on.

[14]  Accordingly, we uphold the Standard 5 complaint.

Was the item unfair to any person or organisation taking part or referred to in the item?

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

[16]  Ms Beardsley argued that the item was unfair to the commercial hunting industry.

 

[17]  The fairness standard applies only to individuals or organisations, and in our view, the commercial hunting industry is too broad to fall within the meaning of an “organisation” for the purposes of the standard.

[18]  Accordingly, we decline to uphold the Standard 6 complaint.

 

For the above reasons the Authority upholds the complaint that the broadcast by TVWorks Ltd of an item on 3 News on 6 December 2011 breached Standard 5 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[19]  Having upheld the complaint, we may make orders under sections 13 and 16 of the Broadcasting Act 1989. We do not intend to do so on this occasion. We consider that this decision is sufficient to remedy the breach, and will serve as a reminder to broadcasters to take more care when using file footage if there is a chance of creating a misleading impression that it applies directly to the story at hand.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
1 May 2012

Appendix

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

1                  Tracy Beardsley’s formal complaint – 6 December 2011

2                 TVWorks’ response to the complaint – 24 January 2012

3                 Ms Beardsley’s referral to the Authority – 17 February 2012

4                 TVWorks’ response to the Authority – 16 March 2012


1See, for e.g. Bush and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2010-036.

2See, for example, Cummings and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2010-164.