BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Feral and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2014-107

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • Peta Feral
TV One

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

During The ITM Fishing Show, the host travelled to Mexico for a sport fishing trip, and used live bait to catch marlin. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that the practice of live baiting was cruel and breached standards. The footage was not unexpected in a fishing programme, and the complainant’s concerns relate more to the programme genre in general, and personal lifestyle preferences, which are not a matter of broadcasting standards.

Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Fairness, Discrimination and Denigration, Violence


[1]  During an episode of The ITM Fishing Show, the host travelled to Mexico for a sport fishing trip. The host and crew used live bait to catch marlin, a traditional method used in Mexico.

[2]  Peta Feral complained that the practice of live baiting was ‘especially cruel’ and catching and releasing fish ‘stresses’ and ‘injures’ them. The complainant raised the good taste and decency, fairness, discrimination and denigration and violence standards. In our view, her concerns are best addressed under the good taste and decency standard and we have focused our determination accordingly. The other standards raised by Ms Feral are addressed briefly from paragraph [10] below.

[3]  The issue therefore is whether the broadcast breached the good taste and decency standard, or the other standards specified in the complaint, as set out in the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[4]  The programme aired on TV ONE on 11 August 2014. The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

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

[5]  The good taste and decency standard (Standard 1) is primarily aimed at broadcasts containing sexual material, nudity, coarse language or violence.[1]The Authority will also consider the standard in relation to any broadcast that portrays or discusses material in a way that is likely to cause offence or distress.[2]

[6]  Ms Feral’s underlying concern is with sport fishing itself, and specifically that the practice of using live bait is cruel. She referred to ‘violent programmes showing the exploitation, torture and murder of animals’ and said that ‘violence breeds violence’.

[7]  TVNZ argued that the programme would not have offended or distressed most viewers as both the use of live bait and sport fishing are ‘common and socially acceptable’.

[8]  The footage included in the programme, including of live bait being used, was not gratuitous or unexpected, but rather was justified by the programme genre. Sport fishing is a common leisure activity and live bait is often used to catch larger fish. It is a fact of life that we live in a society that eats meat and seafood, and that living creatures must be killed in order for this to happen. While it might have upset some people, it would not have offended most viewers in context.

[9]  Accordingly, we decline to uphold the complaint that Standard 1 was breached.

Did the programme breach the other standards raised in the complaint?

[10]  Ms Feral also raised the fairness, discrimination and denigration and violence standards in her complaint.

[11]  In our view, the complainant’s concerns do not raise matters capable of being determined according to the requirements of these standards. The fairness and discrimination and denigration standards apply to individuals, organisations and sections of society. Fishing and the use of live bait do not amount to ‘violence’ as envisaged by that standard.

[12]  Ms Feral’s objections relate to the programme genre and the nature of the series as a whole. Her concerns are based largely on personal lifestyle preferences, and do not raise issues of broadcastings standards which we can resolve within the ambit of the Code. Section 5(c) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 recognises that complaints based merely on personal preference are not capable of being resolved by this complaints procedure.

[13]  For these reasons, we decline to uphold the remainder of the complaint.

Concluding comments

[14]  The right to freedom of expression enables broadcasters to offer a wide range of programmes to cater to a wide range of audience tastes and interests. Similarly, viewers have the freedom to choose the type of programme they want to watch. So long as viewers are made aware of the likely content of a programme (for example through the programme genre, the title, the classification, and the use of warnings), there is a degree of responsibility placed on the viewer to regulate their own viewing behaviour, and they are able to make a different viewing choice if a programme is likely to conflict with their personal taste, beliefs or values. Here, footage of bait and fish being caught was not unexpected in a fishing programme and did not threaten broadcasting standards.

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

Peter Radich

3 December 2014


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

1            Peta Feral’s formal complaint – 11 August 2014

2            TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 28 August 2014

3            Ms Feral’s referral to the Authority – 31 August 2014

4            TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 15 October 2014

1 Turner and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2008-112

2 Practice Note: Good Taste and Decency (Broadcasting Standards Authority, November 2006)