BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Hardie and The Radio Network Ltd - 2009-151

Members
  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Tapu Misa
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
Dated
Complainant
  • Lauren Hardie
Number
2009-151
Programme
Easy Mix news
Channel/Station
Easy Mix

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Easy Mix news – report stated that Christchurch man had pleaded guilty to murdering his wife and neighbour and to having sexual intercourse with his victims’ bodies after strangling them – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency

Findings
Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – details of the case were widely reported – standard does not apply to certain groups of people or individuals – contextual factors – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1]   A news report was broadcast on Easy Mix radio station at 2pm on Monday 9 November 2009. The news reader said:

In this update, the Christchurch man who’s admitted to killing two women and burying them under his house will be sentenced at the end of the month. Jason Somerville pleaded guilty today to murdering his wife Rebecca and neighbour Tisha Lowry. Ms Lowry was missing for almost a year before her body was found under the floorboards of the Wainoni house. Somerville has told police he had sex with the bodies of both victims after strangling them.

Complaint

[2]   Lauren Hardie made a formal complaint to The Radio Network Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the report breached standards of good taste and decency. She considered the report’s contents to be “totally inappropriate” as “the families have been through enough and do not need to have this made public knowledge”. Ms Hardie also expressed concern about child listeners.

Standards

[3]   TRN assessed the complaint under Standard 1 and guideline 1a of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice. They provide:

Standard 1 Good Taste and Decency

Broadcasters should observe standards of good taste and decency.

Guideline 1a

Broadcasters will take into account current norms of good taste and decency, bearing in mind the context in which any language or behaviour occurs and the wider context of the broadcast e.g. time of day, target audience, type of programme and use of warnings etc.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[4]   TRN noted that the details reported in the news item had been taken from the man’s public court hearing and were widely reported by all media including most radio stations. It considered that the item was legitimately broadcast and declined to uphold the complaint.

[5]   However, the broadcaster accepted that the item should have been preceded by a warning, and it said that “this was instituted for all further bulletin stories on the matter”. TRN said, “we believe this action showed our willingness to rectify a matter that had the potential to cause unnecessary distress”.

Referral to the Authority

[6]   Dissatisfied with TRN’s response, Ms Hardie referred her complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. She considered that the report would have caused unwanted distress to the family members of the victims, and that the reporting of the details of their deaths demonstrated a lack of respect and dignity. Ms Chisholm argued that if people had wanted to know the details they could have attended the Court hearing.

Authority's Determination

[7]   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.

[8]   When the Authority considers an alleged breach of Standard 1, it takes into account the context of the broadcast. On this occasion, the relevant contextual factors include:

  • the news programme was broadcast at 2pm on a Monday
  • Easy Mix had an adult target audience
  • the item was not preceded by a warning
  • the item’s introduction highlighted the subject matter of the report.

[9]   News programmes by their nature sometimes contain unpleasant material. While the details in this item may have upset some listeners or the victims’ families, the Authority considers that they were acceptable in the context of a news report on the outcome of a criminal case. It notes that the details were widely reported by the media and had not been suppressed by the Court.

[10]   Although there was no warning given prior to the item, the introduction to the item and its subject matter gave viewers an indication that the report might include details of the incident that gave rise to the trial. The Authority acknowledges TRN’s offer to broadcast warnings on subsequent items following the receipt of this complaint.

[11]   Taking into account the above contextual factors, the Authority declines to uphold the Standard 1 complaint.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
15 February 2010

Appendix

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

1.           Lauren Hardie’s formal complaint – 9 November 2009
2.          TRN’s response to the complaint – 13 November 2009
3.          Ms Hardie’s referral to the Authority – 18 November 2009
4.          TRN’s response to the Authority – 27 November 2009