Dickson and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2008-090
- Joanne Morris (Chair)
- Diane Musgrave
- Tapu Misa
- Paul France
- Arabel Dickson
ProgrammeOne News: Midday
BroadcasterTelevision New Zealand Ltd
Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
One News: Midday – item reported on an American survey that found women are attracted to men with anti-social traits – included footage from the movie Ghost Rider that showed a figure standing in a leather jacket with a burning skull for a head while the song “Bad to the Bone” played in the background – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency and violence
Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – contextual factors – not upheld
Standard 10 (violence) – subsumed under Standard 1
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
 An item on One News: Midday, broadcast on TV One at 12pm on Thursday 19 June 2008, reported on the findings of an American university survey that women found men with anti-social personality traits more attractive. At the beginning of the item, the song “Bad to the Bone” by George Thorogood was played. During the song, a brief clip from the film Ghost Rider was shown that included the image of a figure standing in a leather jacket with a burning skull for a head.
 Arabel Dickson made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging the item had breached broadcasting standards. She said the item “was illustrated by a very distressing image of a body hanging, with the face and head burnt”.
 Ms Dickson argued the image was not suitable to include in a light-hearted item at midday, and said that she found it “distressing and difficult to forget”.
 TVNZ assessed Ms Dickson’s complaint under Standards 1 and 10 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. They provide:
Standard 1 Good Taste and Decency
In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are responsible for maintaining standards which are consistent with the observance of good taste and decency.
Standard 10 Violence
In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are required to exercise care and discretion when dealing with the issue of violence.
Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant
 TVNZ stated that to constitute a breach of Standard 1, the broadcast material must be unacceptable to a significant number of viewers in the context in which it was shown.
 The broadcaster noted that the item was part of an unclassified news programme. It contended news programmes “tend to discuss current events including serious crime such as murder and rape, natural disasters of a large scale where people are killed and there is an expectation that broadcasts will carry some footage of crimes/disasters”.
 TVNZ stated that the footage of the burning skeleton in a leather jacket walking down a dark street was not real. The song and image were chosen to reflect the anti-social characteristics of the kinds of men the survey referred to, it said. The broadcaster argued the footage was brief and not intended to distress viewers. It declined to uphold the complaint that the item breached Standard 1.
 With respect to Standard 10 (violence), the broadcaster argued that “no violence was shown in the item” and noted the figure with the burning skull did not appear to be distressed. It pointed out the footage was not real and was included because it represented the characteristics of “bad boys”. TVNZ declined to uphold the complaint.
Referral to the Authority
 Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s response, Ms Dickson referred her complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. She stated that she took “particular issue” with the fact that the broadcaster did not consider the item contained any violence.
 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.
Standard 1 (good taste and decency)
 When the Authority considers a complaint that alleges a breach of good taste and decency, it is required to take into account the context of the broadcast. On this occasion, the relevant contextual factors include:
- the item was part of an unclassified news programme
- it was broadcast at 12pm
- the item was broadcast in an AO time-band.
 The Authority considers that, while the image did not add anything to the news report, it would have been obvious to viewers that it was not real. It finds that the image did not threaten standards of good taste and decency when included in an unclassified news programme targeted at adults.
 Taking the above contextual factors into account, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint that the item breached Standard 1.
Standard 10 (violence)
 The Authority considers that the complainant’s concerns have already been dealt with appropriately in its consideration of whether the broadcast breached standards of good taste and decency. Accordingly, it subsumes the violence complaint into its consideration of Standard 1.
For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
25 November 2008
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1. Arabel Dickson’s formal complaint – 19 June 2008
2. TVNZ’s response to the formal complaint – 18 July 2008
3. Ms Dickson’s referral to the Authority – 13 August 2008
4. TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 23 September 2008