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Goldring and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2012-114

Members

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

Complainant

  • Ray Goldring of Christchurch

Dated

4th December 2012

Number

2012-114

Programme

Close Up

Channel/Station

TV One

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Close Up – item reported on death of a man who was shot while out hunting – during visual reconstruction person pointed a firearm at the camera – allegedly in breach of law and order standard

Findings
Standard 2 (law and order) – footage of a gun pointed at the camera did not, when taken in context, encourage viewers to break the law or otherwise promote, condone or glamorise criminal activity – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Introduction

[1]  A Close Up item reporting on the sentencing of a man convicted of shooting another man in a hunting accident, included visual reconstructions of people hunting. The reporter referred to previous hunting accidents, and a brief, out-of-focus shot of a gun pointing towards the camera was shown during a visual reconstruction of a hunting trip. The image was on screen for approximately two seconds. The item was broadcast on TV One at 7pm on 24 August 2012.

[2]  Ray Goldring made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, arguing that pointing a firearm at another person was an offence under the Arms Act 1983. He said, “It seemed somewhat hypocritical of the programme to focus on firearm safety, only to break that same firearm safety code and law by allowing a firearm user to break that law.”

[3]  The issue is whether the item breached Standard 2 (law and order) 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.

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

[5]  Standard 2 states that broadcasters should observe standards consistent with the maintenance of law and order. The intent behind the standard is to prevent broadcasts that encourage viewers to break the law, or otherwise promote, glamorise or condone criminal activity.1 The standard exists to ensure that broadcasters refrain from broadcasting material which does not respect the laws which sustain our society.2

[6]  TVNZ maintained that pointing a gun at the camera was not the same as pointing it at a person. Contrary to glamorising or condoning crime, the focus of the item was a call for law changes and tougher penalties for those involved in hunting accidents, and the shot was used to visually portray the gravity of the situation, it said.

[7]  The Authority has previously stated that the Code does not prohibit simply filming and broadcasting illegal behaviour.3 To find a breach of the standard, we need to be convinced that the broadcast not only implicitly condemned a particular law, but also actively promoted disrespect for it.4 The relevant law is section 52(1) and (2) of the Arms Act 1983, which makes it an offence to present a firearm at another person. We understand the complainant’s concerns about the footage, and accept that the pointing of a gun at the camera so that viewers could see directly down the barrel of the gun could be considered confronting by some viewers, who may feel it was being pointed at them.

[8]  However, we are satisfied that, when taken in context, the footage did not condone criminal activity in the form of pointing a firearm at another person, or promote disrespect for gun laws. The shot of the firearm aimed at the camera was extremely brief (about two seconds in length), out of focus, and clearly intended as a re-enactment and visual illustration to the story. It was shown in the context of a six-minute story about the death of a man in a hunting accident, and his parents’ call for a law change for these types of accidents. In other words, the repercussions of such behaviour and the importance of firearm safety were made clear. Reasonable viewers would not have been encouraged to use guns in a manner that was illegal or unsafe.

[9]  The item carried high value, because it informed viewers of New Zealand’s current gun laws, and raised questions about whether there should be a law change and tougher penalties for those involved in hunting accidents. Given the public interest in the item, and its overall message about gun safety, we consider that upholding complaint would be an unjustifiable limit on the right to freedom of expression. We respect the right of broadcasters to use visual illustrations as a story-telling technique, but we suggest that care is taken with footage of guns, given topical discussions around gun safety.

[10]  Having found that the broadcast did not encourage viewers to break the law or otherwise promote, condone or glamorise criminal activity, we decline to uphold the Standard 2 complaint.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
4 December 2012

Appendix

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

1           Ray Goldring’s formal complaint – 6 September 2012

2          TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 1 October 2012

3          Mr Goldring’s referral to the Authority – 1 October 2012

4          TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 16 October 2012

5          Further comment from Mr Goldring – 19 October 2012


1See, for example, Keane and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2010-082.

2Hunt and Māori Television, Decision No. 2009-010

3See, for example, Preston and TVWorks Ltd, Decision No. 2008-016.