BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Garlick and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2009-086

Members
  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
Dated
Complainant
  • Verle and William Garlick
Number
2009-086
Programme
Close Up
Channel/Station
TV One

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Close Up – presenter introduced item coming up after advertisement break – included footage from episode of Underbelly – showed a balaclava-clad man shooting at man sitting in a car – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency, fairness, programme information, children’s interests and violence standards

Findings
Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – contextual factors – not upheld

Standard 9 (children’s interests) – broadcaster adequately considered the interests of child viewers – not upheld

Standard 10 violence) – broadcaster exercised sufficient care and discretion when dealing with the issue of violence – not upheld

Standard 6 (fairness) – standard not applicable – not upheld

Standard 8 (programme information) – standard not applicable – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1]   An episode of Close Up was broadcast on TV One at 7pm on 17 June 2009. After finishing an interview, the presenter said:

Now, next we cross live to Melbourne for the latest twist in the story of a gang-land family made infamous in the TV series Underbelly.

[2]  A brief scene from an episode of Underbelly was shown. The footage showed a man sitting in the driver’s side of a van with a young school girl sitting in the back seat. A man wearing a balaclava and holding a sawn-off shot gun ran up to the driver’s window and fired a shot shattering the driver’s window. The footage of the gun being fired was repeated three times and shown from the point of view of the driver sitting inside looking out at the gunman.

[3]   The scene did not show anyone being hit by bullets or being injured in any other way.

Complaint

[4]   Verle and William Garlick made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the programme had breached broadcasting standards relating to good taste and decency, fairness, programme information, children’s interests and violence.

[5]   The complainants said that they had just finished watching an interview when, “Suddenly and without warning, we were watching at close range, an armed person dressed in a black hood and eye slits, aiming a double-barrelled gun at the head of a driver of a vehicle”. They stated that the gunman ran to the side of the vehicle and “at close range, pulled the trigger again, again and again into the head of the driver”.

[6]   Mr and Mrs Garlick noted that the footage had not been preceded by a warning and argued that the scene depicted “gratuitous violence” that breached broadcasting standards. They pointed out that the programme was broadcast during children’s normally accepted viewing times.

Standards

[7]   TVNZ assessed the complaint under Standards 1, 6, 8, 9 and 10 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. These 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 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.

Standard 8 Programme Information

Broadcasters are responsible for ensuring that programme information and structure does not deceive or disadvantage the viewer.

Standard 9 Children’s Interests

During children’s normally accepted viewing times (see Appendix 1), broadcasters are required, in the preparation and presentation of programmes, to consider the interests of child viewers.

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

[8]   With respect to Standard 1, TVNZ stated that Close Up was broadcast during the PGR time-band and that it was targeted at adults. It contended that unsupervised children were unlikely to watch the programme so that any children watching would be doing so in the company of an adult or parent.

[9]   The broadcaster noted that the presenter had referred to “the story of a gang-land family made infamous in the TV series Underbelly” when introducing the up-coming item. It considered that the footage was not overly explicit and that the violence was implied. It also noted that the scene did not show anyone getting hurt and that there was no blood or bodies.

[10]   TVNZ argued that the footage was “appropriate to screen during Close Up and would not have been unexpected or seemed surprising to the regular Close Up viewer”. It declined to uphold the Standard 1 complaint.

[11]   The broadcaster contended that the fairness standard had not been breached and it declined to uphold the Standard 6 complaint.

[12]   With respect to programme information, TVNZ argued that the standard did not apply, as it related to programmes which disadvantaged or deceived viewers.

[13]   Turning to consider Standard 9 (children’s interests), the broadcaster reiterated that children were unlikely to watch Close Up unsupervised, that the programme was broadcast during the PGR time-band and that it had an adult target audience. TVNZ argued that it had adequately considered the interests of child viewers and it declined to uphold the Standard 9 complaint.

[14]   Dealing with Standard 10 (violence), the broadcaster noted that, while the scene implied violence had taken place, nobody was shown being injured or killed. TVNZ contended that it had exercised sufficient care and discretion in deciding to include the footage, and it declined to uphold the violence complaint.

Referral to the Authority

[15]   Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s response, Mr and Mrs Garlick referred their complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

Authority's Determination

[16]   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)

[17]   When the Authority considers an alleged breach of good taste and decency, it takes into account the context of the broadcast. On this occasion, the relevant contextual factors include:

  • the programme was broadcast at 7pm during the PGR time-band

  • Close Up was an unclassified news and currents affairs programme

  • the programme had an adult target audience.

[18]   In the Authority’s view, the footage of the gunman firing his gun and shattering the car’s window may have surprised some viewers, particularly because the gunshot was repeated three times. However, it was clear that the footage was a fictional scene, as opposed to a real shooting, and it was broadcast to illustrate the subject matter of the next item.

[19]   The Authority agrees with the broadcaster that the violence contained in the scene was relatively inexplicit; while the gun was fired, nobody was shown being injured. Taking the above contextual factors into account, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint that the programme breached Standard 1.

Standard 9 (children’s interests)

[20]   The Authority has stated on a number of occasions that unaccompanied young children are unlikely to watch news and current affairs programmes (see, for example, Angus and TVWorks1). Noting that the scene did not depict anyone being hurt or killed, although the footage suggested that had occurred, it agrees with TVNZ that the footage was consistent with the PGR time-band.

[21]   In these circumstances, the Authority finds that the broadcaster adequately considered the interests of child viewers when deciding to include the brief footage from Underbelly in the programme. Accordingly, it declines to uphold the Standard 9 complaint.

Standard 10 (violence)

[22]   As stated above in paragraphs [18] and [19], while the footage may have surprised some viewers, the violence was clearly fictional. Further, nobody was shown being injured or killed.

[23]   Taking into account that Close Up was broadcast during the PGR time-band and that the programme had an adult target audience, the Authority considers that TVNZ exercised sufficient care and discretion when dealing with the issue of violence. Accordingly, it declines to uphold the complaint that the programme breached Standard 10.

Standard 6 (fairness)

[24]   Standard 6 only applies to people or organisations taking part or referred to in a programme. The Authority notes that the scene shown in the “coming up” teaser was from a fictional crime drama and that the people involved were actors.

[25]   In these circumstances, the Authority considers that the fairness standard does not apply and it declines to uphold the Standard 6 complaint.

Standard 8 (programme information)

[26]   Standard 8 states that broadcasters are responsible for ensuring that programme information and structure does not deceive or disadvantage the viewer. The standard relates to issues such as ensuring a clear distinction between programming and advertising material, the use of subliminal perception, and collusion between broadcasters and contestants during competitions.

[27]   The Authority finds that the programme information standard is not applicable in the circumstances, and it declines to uphold the complaint that the item breached Standard 8.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
17 September 2009

Appendix

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

1.             Verle and William Garlicks' formal complaint – 17 June 2009

2.            TVNZ’s response to the formal complaint – 15 July 2009

3.            The Garlicks' referral to the Authority – 20 July 2009

4.            TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 31 July 2009


1Decision No. 2009-009