BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Irwin and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2010-087

Members
  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Tapu Misa
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
Dated
Complainant
  • Sylvia Irwin
Number
2010-087
Channel/Station
TV One

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Masterchef NZ
– three teams shown taking part in cooking competition – all teams used fresh crayfish as an ingredient – live crayfish shown accidentally being dropped onto the floor –one contestant placed three live crayfish into boiling water – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency, responsible programming, children’s interests and violence standards

Close Up – item on how to kill a crayfish correctly – interviewed the Masterchef NZ judge and contestant who boiled the crayfish – using a live crayfish the chef showed viewers how to kill it humanely – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency, responsible programming, children’s interests, and violence standards

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

Standard 8 (responsible programming) – Masterchef NZ correctly classified G – Close Up was an unclassified news and current affairs programme – neither programme required a warning – not upheld

Standard 9 (children’s interests) – programmes were educative and demonstrated the correct method for humanely killing crayfish – not upheld

Standard 10 (violence) – programmes did not contain any violence – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcasts

[1]   During an episode of the cooking competition Masterchef NZ, broadcast on TV One at 7.30pm on Wednesday 31 March 2010, the contestants were divided into three teams and had to prepare a lunch involving seafood on a barbeque.

[2]   The teams went shopping for seafood, and one of the teams was shown taking live crayfish out of a tank and putting them into their basket. As one contestant was trying to move the crayfish from the tank to the basket, he accidentally dropped the crustacean onto the floor. The crayfish briefly flopped around on the shop floor as another contestant tried to pick it up. It was eventually picked up and placed into the basket.

[3]   During the barbeque contest, a guest judge was shown speaking to a contestant who intended to drown his team’s crayfish as a method to kill them before cooking. The guest judge stated that he strongly objected to the inhumane killing of crayfish and explained how to correctly kill a crayfish by holding its tail and using a knife to quickly sever the head lengthways. He then told the contestant, “If I see you drown it, you’re gone”.

[4]   Another contestant was shown killing her team’s crayfish by placing them directly into boiling water. Her actions drew much criticism from the judging panel and the guest judge gave his opinion on the most humane method to kill a crayfish. The contestant said that she did not feel guilty about cooking the crayfish while they were still alive and put another into the pot of boiling water.

[5]   During the judging segment towards the end of the episode, one of the judges criticised the contestant who boiled the live crayfish and told her that she needed to respect her ingredients, especially if they were alive.

[6]   The following night, an item on Close Up, broadcast on TV One at 7pm on Thursday 1 April 2010, looked at how to kill crayfish correctly. The presenter interviewed the guest chef from Masterchef NZ and the contestant who had boiled the crayfish while they were still alive. The chef, the contestant, and Close Up’s presenter discussed the previous night’s episode of Masterchef NZ and the various methods to kill crayfish.

[7]   The chef, using a live example that had been put into a freezer to go to sleep, showed viewers the correct method, in his opinion, for humanely killing a crayfish. This involved the chef holding the crayfish down by its tail on a chopping board and using a knife to quickly sever its head lengthways.

Complaint

[8]   Sylvia Irwin made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that both programmes breached broadcasting standards relating to good taste and decency, responsible programming, children’s interests, and violence.

[9]   With respect to the episode of Masterchef NZ, the complainant noted that a crayfish had been dropped on the floor and that a contestant had been shown boiling crayfish alive. She stated that, “The makers of Masterchef must have known that having a tank of crayfish on the set with inexperienced cooks would lead to an inhumane situation for entertainment”.

[10]   Referring to guideline 9d to the children’s interests standard, she argued that the programme showed animals being treated badly. She also maintained that Standard 10 (violence) was breached.

[11]   Turning to the Close Up item, Ms Irwin stated that she was concerned about the killing of the live crayfish that was “supposedly asleep on ice”. She contended that the item had also breached broadcasting standards.

Standards

[12]   Standards 1, 8, 9 and 10, and guidelines 1a, 1b, 8a, 9a and 9d of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting practice are relevant to the determination of this complaint. These provide:

Standard 1 Good Taste and Decency

Broadcasters should observe standards of good taste and decency.

Guidelines

1a   Broadcasters will take into account current norms of good taste and decency bearing in mind the context in which any content occurs and the wider context of the broadcast e.g. programme classification, target audience, type of programme and use of warnings etc.

1b   The use of visual and verbal warnings should be considered when content is likely to disturb or offend a significant number of viewers except in the case of news and current affairs, where verbal warnings only will be considered. Warnings should be specific in nature, while avoiding detail which may itself distress or offend viewers.

Standard 8 Responsible Programming

Broadcasters should ensure programmes:

• are appropriately classified;

• display programme classification information;

• adhere to timebands in accordance with Appendix 1;

• are not presented in such a way as to cause panic, or unwarranted alarm or undue
 distress; and

• do not deceive or disadvantage the viewer.

Guideline 8a

Broadcasters should use established classification codes.

• Classification symbols should be displayed at the beginning of each programme and after each advertising break;

• Warnings should be considered when programme content is likely to offend or disturb a significant number of the intended audience.

Standard 9 Children’s Interests

During children’s normally accepted viewing times (see Appendix 1), broadcasters should consider the interests of child viewers.

Guidelines

9a   Broadcasters should be mindful of the effect any programme or promo may have on children during their normally accepted viewing times – usually up to 8.30pm – and avoid screening material that would disturb or alarm them.

9d   Programmes containing disturbing social and domestic friction or sequences in which people – especially children – or animals may be humiliated or badly treated, should be handled with care and sensitivity:

• all gratuitous material of this nature should be avoided and any scenes shown must pass the test of relevancy within the context of the programme. If thought likely to disturb children, the programme should be scheduled later in the evening.

Standard 10 Violence

Broadcasters should exercise care and discretion when dealing with the issue of violence.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[13]   With respect to Standard 1, TVNZ argued that the episodes of Masterchef NZ and Close Up would not have caused offence or distress to a significant number of viewers. It considered that both programmes discussed the correct way to prepare crayfish for eating and that this had been demonstrated on Close Up by one of the judges from Masterchef NZ.

[14]   The broadcaster contended that the discussion about the most humane way (as currently accepted) to kill crayfish was evolving and scientists were still debating whether or not they could feel pain. It argued that “it was important to the welfare of crayfish that have been caught for eating in New Zealand to have this information and discussion on television”.

[15]   TVNZ noted that while some contestants on Masterchef NZ killed their crayfish inhumanely, they were scolded for their behaviour. It considered that the programme enabled the discussion for proper practice to take place and maintained that the inhumane killing of crayfish had not been endorsed in the programme.

[16]   The broadcaster argued that the dropping of a crayfish on the seafood market’s floor had been accidental and that it would not have offended a significant number of viewers.

[17]   TVNZ was of the view that the crayfish on Close Up had been “killed in the accepted humane way – accepted practice is to sever the head of the animal. It is not required to freeze the animal first”. It declined to uphold the complaint that the programmes had breached standards of good taste and decency.

[18]   Turning to Standard 8 (responsible programming), the broadcaster contended that the standard related to ensuring that programmes were correctly classified and that ratings were displayed. It noted that the ratings for Masterchef NZ had been shown at the beginning of the programme and that Close Up was an unclassified news and current affairs programme. It argued that the footage contained in both programmes was acceptable to screen and that neither required a warning. It declined to uphold the complaint that Standard 8 was breached.

[19]   Looking at Standard 9 (children’s interests), TVNZ contended that it was made clear during Masterchef NZ that the team that had boiled the crayfish alive had acted inappropriately and had been “scolded for their actions”. It said that the particular contestant had killed the crayfish in this way out of ignorance and had not intended to be “callous”.

[20]   The broadcaster reiterated its belief that the footage of the boiling crayfish was “not disturbing” and that the correct killing method had been discussed in both programmes.

[21]   TVNZ also noted a previous decision by the Authority1 in which the Authority said that the guideline to Standard 9 requiring care and sensitivity to be shown in programmes in which animals were badly treated was “not intended to include earthworms or, possibly, crustaceans or insects”. It argued that both broadcasts became teaching opportunities for the correct way to kill crayfish, and it declined to uphold the children’s interests complaint.

[22]   With respect to Standard 10 (violence), the broadcaster contended that the footage of the crayfish being killed was brief and relatively inexplicit. It noted that crayfish are eaten and that they must be killed before they are cooked. It considered that the standard was not intended to prevent such footage being shown.

[23]   TVNZ was of the view that the footage in each programme was handled in an appropriate and socially responsible manner, and it declined to uphold the complaint that Standard 10 had been breached.

Referral to the Authority

[24]   Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Ms Irwin referred her complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. She argued that all creatures could feel pain, and that inflicting pain for entertainment was offensive. She considered that the “scolding” of the chef after the fact was too late and maintained that both programmes had breached broadcasting standards.

Authority's Determination

[25]   The members of the Authority have viewed recordings of the broadcasts 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)

Masterchef NZ

[26]   When we consider an alleged breach of good taste and decency, we take into account the context of the broadcast. With respect to Masterchef NZ, the relevant contextual factors include:

  • the programme was rated G
  • was broadcast at 7.30pm during children’s normally accepted viewing times
  • the expectations of regular viewers
  • the programme had a broad target audience.

[27]   Dealing with the complainant’s concerns about the crayfish being dropped onto the floor during Masterchef NZ, we consider that it was clearly an accident and that it was dealt with quickly and effectively by the contestants involved.

[28]   With respect to the footage of the crayfish being boiled alive, we are of the view that such actions are a common method of cooking crayfish in New Zealand. While some viewers may have been shocked by the footage, we note that members of the programme’s judging panel were heavily critical of the contestant’s actions and that a panel member explained the humane way to prepare crayfish for cooking.

[29]   Taking the above contextual factors into account, we decline to uphold the complaint that Masterchef NZ breached Standard 1.

Close Up

[30]   With respect to Close Up, the relevant contextual factors include:

  • was an unclassified news and current affairs programme
  • it was broadcast at 7pm during children’s normally accepted viewing times
  • the expectation of regular viewers
  • the programme had an adult target audience.

[31]   With respect to the killing of the crayfish on Close Up, we note that the segment was a follow up item relating to the previous night’s episode of Masterchef NZ and that it dealt with what the broadcaster saw as a legitimate public issue which needed to be addressed.

[32]   We are of the view that the item was an educational demonstration about the most humane method to kill crayfish. We also note that the chef and the presenter discussed alternative viewpoints on the various ways to kill crayfish, and agree with TVNZ that the item served as a teaching opportunity which enabled a discussion about proper practice to take place.

[33]   Taking the above contextual factors into account, we decline to uphold the complaint that Close Up breached Standard 1.

Standard 9 (children’s interests)

[34]   Standard 9 requires broadcasters to consider the interests of child viewers during their normally accepted viewing times – usually up to 8.30pm.

[35]   We note that, while boiling crayfish alive may now be considered cruel and inhumane, such actions are typical of how many people cook crayfish in New Zealand. While some child viewers may have been upset by the footage on Masterchef NZ, the contestant was criticised for her actions and the correct preparation method was explained.

[36]   We consider that the killing of the crayfish on Close Up was humane, educational, and enabled a discussion about the proper practice to take place. We also consider that the killing of the crayfish was well signposted and that parents were given adequate time to exercise discretion.

[37]   Further, 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. We consider that any children watching would have learnt why it was important to follow best practice and kill crayfish humanely.

[38]   With respect to both programmes, we are of the view that the broadcaster exercised an appropriate level of care and sensitivity. In these circumstances, we find that TVNZ adequately considered the interests of child viewers and we therefore decline to uphold the complaint that the broadcasts breached Standard 9.

Standard 8 (responsible programming)

[39]   Standard 8 requires programmes to be correctly classified and screened in appropriate time-bands.

[40]   In our view, the episode of Masterchef NZ was correctly classified G because it did not contain any material that warranted a higher rating. We also note that Close Up was an unclassified news and current affairs programme.

[41]   We consider that, while footage of crayfish being killed in both programmes may have upset some viewers, the images would have been quite familiar to a number of New Zealanders and neither broadcast required a warning.

[42]   Accordingly, we decline to uphold the Standard 8 complaint.

Standard 10 (violence)

[43]   Standard 10 provides that broadcasters should exercise care and discretion when dealing with the issue of violence. In our view, while the programmes showed crayfish being killed in preparation for making food, the actions did not constitute “violence” as envisaged by the standard.

[44]   Accordingly, we decline to uphold the complaint that Standard 10 was breached.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
26 October 2010

Appendix

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

1.           Sylvia Irwin’s formal complaint – 21 April 2010

2.          TVNZ’s response to the formal complaint – 12 July 2010

3.          Ms Irwin’s referral to the Authority – 17 July 2010

4.          TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 1 September 2010


1Decision No. 2004-076