de Villiers and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2009-134
- Peter Radich (Chair)
- Leigh Pearson
- Tapu Misa
- Mary Anne Shanahan
- Alex de Villiers
BroadcasterTelevision New Zealand Ltd
Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Close Up – report on the sale of horse meat for human consumption that had been processed as pet food – included undercover investigation – reporter shown speaking with the owner of pet food factory allegedly supplying horse meat – reporter told to leave the property but continued to ask questions – allegedly in breach of law and order
Standard 2 (law and order) – reporter acted in a professional and appropriate manner – item did not 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.
 An item on Close Up, broadcast on TV One at 7pm on Monday 31 August 2009, reported on an investigation into the sale of horse meat for human consumption that had been processed at a pet food abattoir in Tuakau.
 As part of the investigation, the reporter visited the Tuakau premises and spoke to the owner. The footage began with the reporter asking the owner “Is this food safe to eat? Why are you selling this meat knowing that people are going to eat it?” The owner asked if he had any proof and the reporter said that he did. The owner then shook the reporter’s hand saying, “Good on you, all the best”.
 The reporter continued to ask questions of the owner, who proceeded to hongi the reporter, then placed his arm around him and kissed him on the cheek while saying “Good on you, all the best”. The reporter asked the owner to “stop doing that”, to which the owner replied, “Yeah, well go away”.
 The reporter continued to question the owner, but the owner did not answer any of the questions and walked back into the factory. The owner then came back with a meat hook in his hand and the reporter said to him, “It’s a little bit worrying with that hook in your hand mate”. The owner replied, “Well, that’s better than trying to punch you eh. Then I’ll go to court for assault for somebody that’s on private property”.
 The owner again embraced the reporter who said, “Please don’t do that again”, to which the owner replied, “Why not? Oh well, get off my property”. The reporter then asked the owner, “You want us to leave?” To which he responded, “yes, thank you very much”. The reporter continued to question the owner, who embraced him again before walking back into his factory.
 The programme returned to the studio and the Close Up presenter interviewed a representative from the New Zealand Food Safety Authority about the issues raised in the investigation.
 Alex de Villiers made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the item had breached Standard 2 (law and order).
 Referring to guideline 2a, the complainant argued that the reporter’s refusal to leave the property after being asked twice to do so “constituted criminal trespass” and had breached the law and order standard.
 TVNZ assessed the complaint under Standard 2 and guideline 2a of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. They provide:
Standard 2 Law and Order
Broadcasters should observe standards consistent with the maintenance of law and order.
Caution should be exercised in broadcasting items which explain the technique of crime in a manner that invites imitation.
Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant
 TVNZ said that for a programme to breach the law and order standard, it would have to condemn a particular law and actively promote disrespect for it. The broadcaster argued that the Close Up programme had not glamorised crime or condoned the actions of criminals and that its reporter had not broken the law as alleged by the complainant.
 Looking at guideline 2a, the broadcaster stated that the guideline related to programmes that explicitly instructed viewers how to imitate an “unusual criminal technique or suicide” or which glamorised the criminal activity shown in them.
 The broadcaster contended that the reporter was investigating a matter of serious public concern and that he had acted in an acceptable manner. It said that its reporter had not refused to leave the premises and was not trespassing. TVNZ noted that the owner had continued to engage with the reporter after asking him to leave his premises and it disagreed with Mr de Villiers that a trespass had occurred.
 TVNZ declined to uphold the complaint that the item breached Standard 2.
Referral to the Authority
 Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s response, Mr de Villiers referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.
 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.
 The Authority cannot assume the role of a criminal court and determine whether a crime has been committed; its task is to determine whether the programme breached broadcasting standards. The Authority has previously stated (see, for example, Gregory and TVNZ1) that the intent behind the law and order standard is to prevent broadcasts that encourage viewers to break the law, or otherwise promote, glamorise or condone criminal activity.
 The Authority considers that the item reported on a serious matter that was squarely in the public interest. It finds that the reporter acted in a professional manner while endeavouring to get his question answered and that his behaviour was entirely reasonable and appropriate in the circumstances.
 In the Authority’s view, the item did not contain any material that encouraged viewers to break the law, or promoted, condoned or glamorised criminal activity. Accordingly, it declines to uphold the complaint that the item breached Standard 2.
For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
15 February 2010
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1. Alex de Villiers’ formal complaint – 1 September 2009
2. TVNZ’s response to the formal complaint – 6 October 2009
3. Mr de Villiers’ referral to the Authority – 19 October 2009
4. TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 1 December 2009
1Decision No. 2005-133