BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Eagle and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2004-021

Members
  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
Dated
Complainant
  • Lindsay Eagle
Number
2004-021
Programme
One News
Channel/Station
TV One

Complaint
One News – kiwi released back to wild after recovery from injury in “hunter’s trap” – allegedly inaccurate and unfair to describe person who accidentally trapped kiwi as “hunter” – allegedly denigrated recreational hunters

Findings
Standard 5 – “hunter” and “trapper” sufficiently synonymous – not inaccurate – not upheld

Standard 6 – recreational hunting not an “occupational status” and recreational hunters not a “section of the community” under Guideline 6g – recreational hunters not referred to in item – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision


Summary

[1] An item broadcast on One News on TV One on 6 January 2004 reported that a kiwi had been released back into the wild after five months spent recovering from “life-threatening injuries [sustained] in a hunter’s trap”.

[2] Lindsay Eagle complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the person who accidentally trapped the kiwi was a “trapper” and that it was unfair and inaccurate to describe that person as a “hunter”. He complained that the item denigrated recreational hunters.

[3] TVNZ declined to uphold the complaint, arguing that trappers were “by definition” hunters, and denying that the item denigrated recreational hunters.

[4] Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s decision, Mr Eagle referred his complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

For the reasons below, the Authority does not uphold the complaint.

Decision

[5] The members of the Authority have viewed a tape of the programme complained about and have read the correspondence which is listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

Programme

[6] An item broadcast on One News on TV One on 6 January 2004 reported that a kiwi had been released back into the wild after five months spent recovering from “life-threatening injuries [sustained] in a hunter’s trap”. The item reported that veterinarians had had to amputate two of the kiwi’s three toes “after they were mangled in a hunter’s trap”. It went on to report that the “trapper” was now being praised for rushing the injured bird from deep in the bush to the Conservation Department.

Complaint

[7] Lindsay Eagle complained to Television New Zealand Ltd that it was unfair and inaccurate to describe the person who accidentally trapped the kiwi as a “hunter”. He argued that the kiwi had “clearly been caught in a leg trap” and that the person who caught the kiwi was therefore “obviously a trapper”.

[8] Mr Eagle stated his belief that the word “hunter” had been deliberately selected to “denigrate the fraternity of people who enjoy hunting as an outdoor recreation”. He stated:

While the pursuits of hunting and trapping may be contiguous outdoor activities the actions involved are easily distinguishable as was apparent in this instance. Hunting a Kiwi cannot be considered. The actions are not interchangeable.

[9] Mr Eagle stated that few hunters would condone the use of gin traps, and that the vast majority of hunters “endorse appropriate environmental management and support the legitimate conservation of the flora and fauna of this country”.

[10] Mr Eagle complained that it was unfortunate that One News had allowed an “intractable radical party to promote its agenda in this manner”. In Mr Eagle’s view, hunters and viewers deserved an apology.

Standards

[11] TVNZ assessed the complaint under Standard 5 and Guideline 6g of Standard 6 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. The standards and relevant guideline read:

Standard 5 Accuracy

News, current affairs and other factual programmes must be truthful and accurate on points of fact, and be impartial and objective at all times.

Standard 6 Fairness

In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are required to deal justly and fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to.

Guideline

6g  Broadcasters should avoid portraying persons in programmes in a manner that encourages denigration of, or discrimination against, sections of the community on account of sex, sexual orientation, race, age, disability, or occupational status, or as a consequence of legitimate expression of religious, cultural or political beliefs. This requirement is not intended to prevent the broadcast of material which is:

i) factual, or

ii) the expression of genuinely held opinion in news, current affairs or other factual programmes, or

iii) in the legitimate context of a dramatic, humorous or satirical work.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Complainant

[12] TVNZ disagreed that it was inaccurate to describe a trapper as a “hunter”. The broadcaster argued that, while not all hunters were trappers, all trappers were “by definition” hunters, “in the sense that a trapper is endeavouring to catch or kill a wild creature – the object of all hunting”. In addition, it argued that the word “hunter” was not confined to those who hunt for recreational purposes.

[13] TVNZ disputed that the item denigrated recreational hunters. TVNZ stated that its complaints committee found “no hint” in the item that recreational hunters had been involved in the incident at all. It stated:

A hunter was involved – a trapper, and it was clear that the accident involved the trapping of a kiwi. Even the trapper was not denigrated; the item reflected favourably on the speed with which he sought help for the injured bird.

[14] TVNZ declined to uphold the complaint.

Referral to the Authority

[15] In his referral to the Authority, Mr Eagle disputed TVNZ’s assertion that all trappers were by definition hunters. He advised the Authority that he had consulted a number of dictionaries, thesauruses, and common usage references, and it was now “even more clear” to him that the term “hunter” was inaccurate. He advised:

I have not found the element of “pursuing” considered with any of the references to trapper, whereas all the definitions and usages of hunter include this pursuit action in some form.

[16] Mr Eagle contended that there was no justification for interchanging the words. While the activities of hunters and trappers were common in the sense of outdoor recreation, they were not common in the context of the programme, he argued.

[17] In relation to the denigration aspect of the complaint, Mr Eagle stated:

With the presence of some of the personnel shown in the background of the programme, I continue to believe as my complaint stated, that the word hunter was deliberately used. My somewhat obscure complaint about the usages denigrating hunters in this context of the programme appears to have slipped past the Committee’s grasp (or has been intentionally ignored). In these climes of political correctness it is about time some of this sniping is exposed for what it is.

[18] Mr Eagle asked the Authority to consider the validity of his request for an apology from TVNZ.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[19] TVNZ advised the Authority that Roget’s Thesaurus listed trapper as one of the “idiomatic combinations peculiar” to the noun hunter, and that the introduction to Roget’s Thesaurus stated:

… the words and phrases of the language are here classed, not according to their sound or their orthography, but strictly according to their signification.

Complainant’s Final Comment

[20] As well as reiterating his complaint, in his final comment Mr Eagle stated:

In the past few years an organisation, whose members are now considered to be eco-fanatics, has made submissions against the implementation of game management plans and it has opposed all aspects of hunting in New Zealand. The organisation with their unrealistic ecological ideas uses every opportunity to attempt to discredit other groups who have interests in our great outdoors.

[21] Mr Eagle stated that TVNZ’s reference to Roget’s Thesaurus was “so obscure” that he had had to locate three editions to find one which included the word “trapper” with the word “hunter”. He wrote:

I believe that [TVNZ’s] commentator would not have been permitted to say that Carlos Spencer plays “football”, nor would they have repeatedly referred to the Silver Fern team as “basket ball” players.

[22] Mr Eagle described the broadcast as “unnecessarily sloppy journalism” and TVNZ’s reasoning in response to his complaint as “perverse ignorance”. He concluded:

In the film, in the presence of recognisable hostile persons, the inference that a hunter was responsible for causing injury to the Kiwi was an insidious slur inflicted on the hunting fraternity.

Authority’s Determination

[23] Mr Eagle disputed TVNZ’s argument that while not all hunters are trappers, all trappers are “by definition” hunters. Mr Eagle argued that the word “hunter” conveys an element of “pursuit” which is lacking with the word “trapper”.

[24] The Authority has some sympathy with both arguments. It accepts that the object of both activities is to catch an animal. It also accepts that a “trapper” is not “pursuing” an animal in the active sense. The Authority considers, however, that the words “hunter” and “trapper” are sufficiently synonymous that the broadcast did not amount to a breach of the requirement for accuracy. Therefore, the Authority declines to uphold a breach of Standard 5.

[25] In relation to the aspect of the complaint that the item denigrated recreational hunters, the Authority notes that Guideline 6g is designed to protect “sections of the community” against denigration on account of “sex, sexual orientation, race, age, disability, or occupational status, or as a consequence of legitimate expression of religious, cultural or political beliefs.” The Authority considers that Guideline 6g is not applicable to this complaint, as recreational hunting is not an occupational status and recreational hunters are not a section of the community contemplated by the guideline. Further, Standard 6 itself is not applicable as recreational hunters were not referred to in the item.

[28] The essence of Mr Eagle’s complaint appears to be that no responsible recreational hunter would consider hunting a kiwi, and that somehow the item implied otherwise. In the Authority’s view, there was no question that the kiwi was caught and injured accidentally, and the Authority does not agree with Mr Eagle that there was a deliberate anti-hunting implication in the story.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
1 April 2004

Appendix

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

1.  Lindsay Eagle’s Formal Complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd – 7 January 2004

2. TVNZ’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 21 January 2004

3. Mr Eagle’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 21 January 2004

4. TVNZ’s Response to the Authority – 29 January 2004

5. Mr Eagle’s Final Comment – 10 February 2004