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Burrows and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2014-070

Members

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

Complainant

  • Wayne Burrows of Palmerston North

Dated

25th September 2014

Number

2014-070

Programme

Seven Sharp

Channel/Station

TV ONE

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd


Summary [This summary does not form part of the decision.]

Seven Sharp screened footage of an incident involving celebrity singer Beyoncé’s sister physically attacking Beyoncé’s husband in a lift. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that the item made light of the serious issue of violence or denigrated men.

Not Upheld: Law and Order, Discrimination and Denigration, Violence.


Introduction

[1]  Seven Sharp screened footage of an incident involving Beyoncé’s sister physically attacking Beyoncé’s husband in a lift, that had attracted the attention of media worldwide. It was broadcast at 7pm on TV ONE on 13 May 2014.

[2]  Wayne Burrows complained that the hosts ‘made light of this serious issue laughing and joking about the violence’. He said that by laughing the presenters glamorised the violent behaviour, and because the violence was by a woman against a man, the laughter denigrated men.

[3]  The issue is whether the broadcast breached the law and order, discrimination and denigration and violence standards as set out in 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 broadcast encourage viewers to break the law, or otherwise promote, condone or glamorise criminal activity?

[5]  The intent behind the law and order standard (Standard 2) 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]  Mr Burrows argued that the hosts’ laughter in presenting the item glamorised the alleged illegal behaviour of those involved in the incident. TVNZ maintained that the programme did not glamorise or condone the behaviour shown.

[7]  While the programme did take a light-hearted approach in presenting this story, it did not seriously condone the violent behaviour shown, nor did the presenters glamorise the behaviour. The actions of the woman in the lift were clearly described by the presenters as ‘aggressive’ and a ‘vicious attack’. Their laughter did not glamorise or condone the behaviour, but was more akin to mocking disbelief, laughing at the absurdity of the situation. The item was in the nature of a celebrity gossip segment, about an incident that attracted international attention, and Seven Sharp’s viewers would not have taken it as a serious encouragement to engage in violence or illegal activity.

[8]  We therefore decline to uphold the law and order complaint.

Did the broadcast encourage the denigration of, or discrimination against, men as a section of the community?

[9]  The discrimination and denigration standard (Standard 7) protects against broadcasts which encourage the denigration of, or discrimination against, sections of the community. It is well-established that in light of the requirements of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, a high level of invective is necessary for the Authority to conclude that a broadcast encourages denigration or discrimination in contravention of the standard.3

[10]  This item made no comment about the genders of those involved in the incident in the lift, or the roles they played. It did not comment in any way on men in general, or demonstrate any malice or invective towards men.

[11]  We are satisfied that nothing in the item encouraged discrimination against, or the denigration of all men as a section of the community. We therefore decline to uphold the complaint under Standard 7.

Did the footage breach the violence standard?

[12]  The violence standard (Standard 10) states that broadcasters should exercise care and discretion when dealing with the issue of violence.

[13]  TVNZ acknowledged that the violence itself was unacceptable but pointed out the programme did not condone the violent behaviour, with the presenters describing it as ‘aggressive’ and a ‘vicious attack’. It considered that showing the violence was justified ‘so that viewers were aware of the nature of the incident’.

[14]  Guideline 10a to the violence standard states that any violence shown should be justified in the context of the screening. Here, the footage was relevant to the segment, and necessary to show viewers the nature of the incident. The incident involved celebrities and had attracted media attention worldwide, so the footage was newsworthy. The clip was only shown once, was relatively blurred and brief, and was not repeated gratuitously. As we have said, the programme did not condone or glamorise the violence.

[15]  We are satisfied that the broadcaster exercised adequate care and discretion when showing the footage during an unclassified current affairs programme aimed at adults. Accordingly, we 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
25 September 2014

Appendix

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

1            Wayne Burrows’ formal complaint – 14 May 2014

2            TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 11 June 2014

3            Mr Burrows’ referral to the Authority – 15 June 2014

4            TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 30 July 2014


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

2Hunt and Māori Television, Decision No. 2009-010
3E.g. McCartain and Angus and The Radio Network Ltd, Decision No. 2002-152