BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Andersson and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2016-043 (22 August 2016)

Members
  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Paula Rose
Dated
Complainant
  • Scott Andersson
Number
2016-043
Programme
Seven Sharp
Channel/Station
TV One

Summary

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

An item on Seven Sharp featured a young girl who was passionate about pig hunting. The item contained footage of the girl and her father on a pig hunt, including footage of the pig bailed up by dogs, as well as the young girl holding the pig’s heart after it had been gutted, and carrying the carcass. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the item breached the good taste and decency and children’s interests standards. The subject matter of the item was clearly signposted by the hosts, who also provided a warning about the content. Viewers and caregivers were therefore given a reasonable opportunity to exercise discretion or make a different viewing choice. In any event, the footage shown during the item was not overly gory or gratuitous, and while some viewers may have found it unpleasant to watch, the broadcast of hunting footage is generally acceptable in New Zealand so long as standards are maintained.

Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Children’s Interests


Introduction

[1]  An item on Seven Sharp featured a young girl who was passionate about pig hunting. The item contained footage of the girl and her father on a pig hunt, including footage of the pig bailed up by dogs, as well as the young girl holding the pig’s heart after it had been gutted, and carrying the carcass.

[2]  Scott Andersson complained that the item was in poor taste, and that there was no warning to viewers about the graphic content, which was ‘presented as something to be laughed at’. Mr Andersson argued that the daughter, father and reporter showed a lack of empathy and respect for the animal, treating the experience as a ‘huge joke’.

[3]  The issue is whether the broadcast breached the good taste and decency and children’s interests standards, as set out in the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.1

[4]  The item was broadcast on TV ONE at approximately 7.15pm on 11 May 2016. The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

The item

[5]  The item began with an introduction by Seven Sharp’s hosts, who said:

Hunting, well it’s not for everyone. We apparently are mad about it – not all of us. Seems every second bloke’s... profile on the Facebook is you holding a dead fish or a deer or a pig...

...It’s not just men who love it, apparently. [Our reporter’s] found a pint-sized pig hunter in the Wairarapa... who is more passionate than most – and just a wee warning about some of the pictures in [the] story.

[6]  The item followed a young girl, who had been hunting pigs since she was three years old, and her father on an early morning hunting trip, and included interviews with both. When asked what it was about pig hunting that she liked so much, the young girl said, ‘...being with animals – dogs. Yeah, being out in the nature – bush and all that.’ The item also featured footage of her bedroom, decorated with hunting posters, photos, awards and pig jaws. The young girl said that instead of having horse-riding posters on her walls, like one of her friends, she had posters about pig hunting.

[7]  During the scene complained about, the reporter followed the father and daughter as they chased after their dogs. Brief footage (approximately 4-5 seconds in length) was shown of the dogs ‘bailing up’ the pig (biting and dragging it), and the pig squealing. The father then ran towards the animals and pulled the dogs away. No footage of the pig being killed was shown.

[8]  The reporter introduced the next footage as a ‘science lesson’, and a brief shot of the pig’s entrails was shown. The young girl then picked up the pig’s heart, squeezing it and making beating noises. The reporter then said that the girl helped turn the pig into a pack, and, as her father helped her with it, he briefly rubbed the pig’s snout against the back of her neck, making pig noises.

[9]  The reporter then remarked, ‘...this early morning activity clearly not kosher with everyone,’ and said to the father:

Some people might say that [she] isn’t mature enough to make an informed decision about engaging in activities like this. What do you say to those people?

[10]  The father replied, ‘It’s not as though I’ve ever put pressure on her to come out with me. It’s always her choice and it always will be her choice.’

[11]  After the item, the hosts commented on how ‘hard-core’ the young girl was, and one of the hosts said:

...do you know what I love most about that story, though, is that she’s spending time with her dad – well, they’ve got a common interest and they’re doing something together that they love.

Did the broadcast threaten current norms of good taste and decency?

[12]  The purpose of the good taste and decency standard (Standard 1) is to protect audience members from viewing broadcasts that are likely to cause widespread undue offence or distress, or undermine widely shared community standards. In television, this standard is usually considered in relation to offensive language, sexual material, nudity and violence, but may also apply to other material presented in a way that is likely to cause offence or distress.

[13]  Mr Andersson complained that there was no warning to viewers about the graphic content shown during this item. He said the footage of the dogs bailing up the pig was ‘shown and presented as something to be laughed at’. Mr Andersson was particularly concerned that there was a lack of empathy shown by the father, daughter and reporter during the item.

[14]  TVNZ argued that the hosts of Seven Sharp made it clear that the item was about pig hunting and that some of the images in the story required a warning. It said that viewers were therefore likely to be aware of the kind of footage that might be shown and could make an informed decision about whether to continue watching. TVNZ also considered that, while the item contained footage of the dead pig and its entrails, it did not show the pig being killed or gutted and was not graphic or gratuitous.

[15]  When we consider the good taste and decency standard, we take into account relevant contextual factors, which here include:

  • the time of broadcast at approximately 7.15pm
  • Seven Sharp is an unclassified news and current affairs show targeted at adults and screened during the PGR timeband
  • the hosts introduced the item as being focused on pig hunting and gave a warning about some of the item’s images
  • audience expectations of Seven Sharp.

[16]  While certain extreme material may be unacceptable regardless of context, the approach developed by this Authority is to require broadcasters to give viewers sufficient information to regulate their own, and their children’s, viewing behaviour. This places a degree of responsibility on viewers to inform themselves about the viewing choices they make.

[17]  In our view, the subject matter of the item was clearly signposted by the hosts during the introduction to the story. The hosts acknowledged that the subject matter was ‘not for everyone’ and provided a warning about the content – albeit in an informal tone, consistent with the programme’s usual style. Taking these factors together, we think viewers and caregivers were made sufficiently aware of the potential imagery contained in the item, and therefore had a reasonable opportunity to make a decision about whether they wished to continue watching, or wished their children to continue watching.

[18]  Further, the actual footage shown during the item was not overly gory or gratuitous. The footage of the pig bailed up by dogs was brief, and the actual killing of the pig was not shown. While the dead body of the pig and a brief shot of its entrails were shown, this kind of imagery was not unexpected in the context of an item about hunting. In our view, the focus of the item was primarily on the young girl, and her interest in pig hunting. Most of the item was therefore made up of interviews with the girl and her father, and not the pig hunt itself.

[19]  We also do not consider that the father and daughter, or the reporter, displayed a lack of empathy and respect towards the pig. Their treatment of it was not visibly cruel or barbaric and we do not agree they made a ‘huge joke’ of the experience. The reporter commented that the family were ‘turning a farm pest into pork’ (indicating the pig would be used for food), and introduced the young girl picking up the pig’s heart as a ‘science lesson’. The impression of the footage was not that the group were disrespectful towards the pig, but that father and daughter were simply enjoying each other’s company and sharing in an activity they both enjoyed, as commented on by the host at the end of the item.

[20]  As noted by the Authority in previous decisions, the broadcast of hunting footage is generally acceptable in New Zealand, provided it does not depict undue cruelty.3 We understand that pig hunting with dogs is an accepted practice in New Zealand, provided pigs ‘at the bail’ are killed quickly and humanely. While some viewers may have found the footage unpleasant or distressing to watch, this reaction would likely be due to their own personal preferences, and not the fact that the treatment of the animal in this case was inhumane or cruel. Hunting is, for some, a reality of life in New Zealand, and this item presented a child who was passionate about an activity she could take part in with her dad.

[21]  For these reasons, we find the item did not threaten current norms of good taste and decency and we do not uphold this part of the complaint.

Did the broadcaster adequately consider children’s interests?

[22]  The children’s interests standard (Standard 3) requires broadcasters to consider the interests of child viewers during their normally accepted viewing times – up to 8.30pm. The purpose of the standard is to protect children from broadcasts which might adversely affect them.4

[23]  Mr Andersson raised guideline 3b in his complaint, which states that the children’s interests standard may be considered in relation to material in which children or animals are humiliated or badly treated.

[24]  For the reasons outlined in our consideration of good taste and decency, we do not consider the item contained material in which children or animals were humiliated or badly treated. Taking into account the relevant contextual factors (outlined at paragraph [15]), we are satisfied that the broadcaster adequately considered children’s interests in relation to the broadcast and did not breach Standard 3.

For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich

Chair

22 August 2016

 

Appendix

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

1      Scott Andersson’s formal complaint – 12 May 2016

2      TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 10 June 2016

3      Mr Andersson’s referral to the Authority – 10 June 2016

4      TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 15 July 2016


1This complaint was determined under the new Free-to-Air Television Code, which took effect on 1 April 2016 and applies to any programmes broadcast on or after that date: http://bsa.govt.nz/standards/overview  

2 Commentary: Good Taste and Decency, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook (2016, at page 12)

3 See, for example, Alexander and TVNZ Ltd, Decision No 2013-080, Feral and MediaWorks TV Ltd, Decision No 2014-143 and Boyce and MediaWorks TV Ltd, Decision No 2015-103 

4 E.g. Harrison and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2008-066