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Brown and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2012-119

Members

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

Complainant

  • David Brown of Nelson

Dated

29th January 2013

Number

2012-119

Channel/Station

TV One

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Promo for Beyond the Darklands – upcoming episode discussed the death of three-year-old Nia Glassie – excerpt of commentary from a news item referred to “kicking her head in” – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency, and responsible programming standards

Findings
Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – while the subject matter of the upcoming episode was distressing, the promo itself was reserved and respectful – details of the abuse were widely reported by media – taken in context the promo did not threaten standards of good taste and decency – not upheld

Standard 8 (responsible programming) – promo was correctly classified PGR and screened during an appropriate host programme – promo was not presented in a way that would have caused alarm or undue distress – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Introduction

[1]  In a promo for an episode of Beyond the Darklands, a series in which a clinical psychologist, Nigel Latta, profiled notorious New Zealand criminals, comments were made in relation to the death of toddler Nia Glassie. The 30-second promo began with a photo of Nia, and the words “Nia Glassie, 2004-2007”, and primarily consisted of footage of her funeral and her grave. It included excerpts from news items relating to the sentencing of those responsible, comments from the sentencing Judge, and comments from a news reporter, including:

  • “ill-treatment of this child which preceded her death sent waves of shock, horror and disbelief throughout the community in New Zealand” (Judge)
  • “they tormented a tiny three-year-old, with the final act of violence kicking her head in” (reporter)
  • “how could they murder a defenceless child?” (narrator)
  • “by the time the little girl was finally taken to hospital it was too late” (Nigel Latta)

[2]  The promo was broadcast on TV One at 8.20pm on 8 October 2012, during The Force which was a reality series about the work of police, and was rated PGR.

[3]  David Brown made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the promo contained “unnecessary graphic language and excerpts from the trial of the case detailing how this defenceless child was killed”. He considered this to be “sensationalist” and “distressing to many people who have children and who find the case sickening and an absolute tragedy”.

[4]  The issue is whether the promo breached Standards 1 (good taste and decency) and 8 (responsible programming) of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[5]  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 promo threaten standards of good taste and decency?

[6]  Standard 1 (good taste and decency) is primarily aimed at broadcasts that contain sexual material, nudity, coarse language or violence.1 The Authority will also consider the standard in relation to any broadcast that portrays or discusses material in a way that is likely to cause offence or distress.2

[7]  When we consider an alleged breach of good taste and decency, we take into account the context of the broadcast, which here includes:

  • the promo was broadcast at 8.20pm during the PGR time-band and close to the AO watershed
  • it was broadcast during The Force which was a reality series about police and was rated PGR
  • the target audience of The Force
  • Beyond the Darklands was broadcast 10 minutes after the promo
  • Beyond the Darklands was rated AO and broadcast at 8.30pm
  • Nia Glassie’s case and details of the case were covered widely by the media.

[8]  We understand that the case of Nia Glassie involved particularly disturbing and upsetting details, and that many people would prefer not to be reminded of these. Nevertheless, these details were widely reported in the news and in other media at the time the case was being heard in court. The episode being promoted discussed a high-profile criminal trial in which there was considerable public interest. These types of programmes are legitimate and valuable, and any restriction on their broadcast and reception must be justified.

[9]  We consider that the promo itself was relatively reserved, notwithstanding the subject matter of the upcoming programme. The promo began with a photograph of Nia, with the caption, “Nia Glassie, 2004–2007”, which gave some indication of the promo’s content, particularly given the widespread coverage of the case. The voiceovers that followed, referring to the case, were not unnecessarily graphic, or gratuitous. The promo did not contain any visually explicit references to Nia’s abuse, with the promo consisting mainly of images of her funeral and her grave. We do not think that one verbal reference to “kicking her head in” took the promo as a whole beyond its PGR rating or made it objectionable. The promo was broadcast during a reality series about the work of police, in which violence and crime were expected themes, and close to the 8.30pm Adults Only watershed. The PGR time-band and classification recognise that content broadcast at this time of night may contain mature themes and require parental supervision.

[10]  We are satisfied that, overall, the promo was respectful and showed due sensitivity. It was not gratuitous or sensationalist.

[11]  We therefore decline to uphold the complaint that the promo breached Standard 1.

Was the promo correctly classified and screened in an appropriate timeslot?

[12]  Standard 8 is primarily aimed at ensuring that programmes are correctly classified and screened in appropriate timeslots. Broadcasters must also ensure that programmes are not presented in a way that could cause unnecessary alarm or undue distress.

[13]  For the reasons discussed above in our consideration of good taste and decency, we are satisfied that the promo was correctly classified PGR and screened during an appropriate host programme, The Force. It did not contain any material which warranted a higher classification of AO or a later time of broadcast; the programme itself screened just 10 minutes after the promo was broadcast. The content of the promo was not inconsistent with its host programme which followed the work of police and would inevitably discuss crime and violence.

[14]  While the subject matter was upsetting, we do not consider that the promo itself was presented in a way that would have caused undue distress; it showed due respect and sensitivity and did not contain gratuitous details or visual depictions of violence.

[15]  We therefore decline to uphold this part of the complaint.

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
29 January 2013

Appendix

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

1           David Brown’s formal complaint – 8 October 2012

2          TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 29 October 2012

3          Mr Brown’s referral to the Authority – 29 October 2012

4          TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 28 November 2012


1Turner and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2008-112

2Practice Note: Good Taste and Decency (Broadcasting Standards Authority, November, 2006)