BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Davies and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2010-136

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Tapu Misa
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • Ian Davies
TV One

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
– news item reported on death of motorcyclist on racing track – included footage of the accident – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency standard


Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – footage was brief and shot from a distance – contextual factors – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1]  A news item during Breakfast, broadcast on TV One at approximately 7.05am on Monday 6 September, reported on the death of a motorcyclist. The news reader stated, “In sport, there’s been an horrific death in the 250cc section of the Moto GP in San Marino. Japanese rider Shoya Tomizawa on the red bike was killed after being hit by two others in this incident. The other two riders escaped serious injury.” This was accompanied by footage of the accident lasting approximately 10 seconds, which showed from some distance multiple riders colliding and being thrown off their bikes.


[2]  Ian Davies made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the news item breached standards of good taste and decency because it “shows the actual death of a motorcyclist on a racing track without mention [that] what was about to be seen was disturbing”.


[3]  Standard 1 and guidelines 1a and 1b of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice are relevant to the determination of this complaint. They provide:

Standard 1 Good Taste and Decency

Broadcasters should observe standards of good taste and decency.


1a   Broadcasters will take into account current norms of good taste and decency bearing in mind the context in which any content occurs and the wider context of the broadcast e.g. programme classification, target audience, type of programme and use of warnings etc.

1b   The use of visual and verbal warnings should be considered when content is likely to disturb or offend a significant number of viewers except in the case of news and current affairs, where verbal warnings only will be considered. Warnings should be specific in nature, while avoiding detail which may itself distress or offend viewers.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[4]  TVNZ argued that to constitute a breach of Standard 1, the broadcast material must be unacceptable in the context in which it was shown, including the programme classification, time of broadcast, target audience, and the use of warnings.

[5]  The broadcaster noted that guideline 10d to the violence standard acknowledged that by its nature, news sometimes contained material that was disturbing and alarming. It emphasised that television was a visual medium so images were a key component of the medium.

[6]  TVNZ argued that prior to the footage screening, the news reader informed the audience that the item concerned “an horrific death”, which gave viewers an indication of the upcoming content. It considered that the footage was “very brief and was not screened gratuitously”. It noted that no close-up shots of the rider, or the aftermath of the accident, were shown. TVNZ maintained that the footage was appropriate to accompany the narrative describing the incident.

[7]  The broadcaster noted that the Authority had not upheld a complaint concerning a news item that showed the death of a sportsperson at the Winter Olympics.1 In that decision the Authority said that the item covered a legitimate and newsworthy story, and that, by their very nature, news programmes covered stories and showed footage that some viewers might find disturbing and offensive. The Authority concluded that the footage shown of the crash was acceptable when taken in the context of a news programme targeted at adults and which was preceded by a clear warning. Further, the footage was taken from a respectful distance and no close-up shots were shown of the man directly after the accident.

[8]  TVNZ also argued that this was not the first time a TVNZ news bulletin had shown sports competitors dying in live events, for example, Ayrton Senna was killed in a Formula One crash, Denny Hulme died in a car crash while racing in Australia, and a luger was killed at the Winter Olympics.

[9]  The broadcaster therefore concluded that in the context of a news item reporting on a sporting death the footage did not breach Standard 1.

Referral to the Authority

[10]  Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Mr Davies referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He maintained that the news reader had not given any warning that the content of the item was disturbing, and therefore considered that this item was different to the three mentioned by TVNZ in its decision “as warnings were given in those prior events”.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[11]  With regard to the three previous items concerning sporting deaths, TVNZ said that it “did not state that these items had warnings”.

Authority's Determination

[12]  The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

[13]  When we consider an alleged breach of good taste and decency, we take into account the context of the broadcast. On this occasion, the relevant contextual factors include:

  • the news item was broadcast at 7.05am during children’s normally accepted viewing times
  • Breakfast was an unclassified news and current affairs programme
  • the programme’s adult target audience.

[14]  Mr Davies complained that the item showed the death of a motorcyclist without sufficient warning that the footage was disturbing.

[15]  News items by their nature often contain unpleasant material. In our view, the footage on this occasion was brief, and shot from a considerable distance, so that it was difficult to ascertain what had happened or who was killed. The footage simply showed a number of riders and their motorcycles being scattered across the track, without focusing in any detail on the death of the rider.

[16]  In these circumstances, we consider that the item did not require a specific warning, but that it was sufficient that the news reader referred to “an horrific death”, which signposted for viewers that the item might contain footage of the accident.

[17]  Taking into account the above contextual factors, and particularly that the item was broadcast as part of an unclassified news and current affairs programme targeted at adults, we find that the item did not breach Standard 1.


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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Peter Radich
23 December 2010


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

1.          Ian Davies’ formal complaint – 6 September 2010

2.         TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 30 September 2010

3.         Mr Davies’ referral to the Authority – 8 October 2010

4.         TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 8 November 2010

1Bowie and TVWorks Ltd, Decision No. 2010-023