BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Irwin and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2011-171

Members
  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
Dated
Complainant
  • Sylvia Irwin
Number
2011-171
Programme
Intrepid Journeys
Channel/Station
TV One

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Intrepid Journeys – dancing champion Brendon Cole visited Vanuatu – locals told him how to kill a chicken using a slingshot – he could not manage to hit it and eventually killed it with his hands – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency and children’s interests standards

Findings
Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – programme showed daily reality of a different culture and way of life – was clear that Mr Cole was upset about killing the chicken so viewers were not encouraged by the programme to kill animals in that manner – footage was not gratuitous in context – not upheld

Standard 9 (children’s interests) – programme was correctly rated PGR – scene was signposted so parents could exercise discretion with regard to their children’s viewing – broadcaster adequately considered children’s interests – not upheld

Standard 10 (violence) – footage did not amount to “violence” as envisaged by the standard – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision. 


Introduction

[1]  An episode of Intrepid Journeys, in which well-known New Zealanders visit interesting places “off the beaten track” and get to know the culture of the place, was broadcast at 7.30pm on TV One on 22 November 2011. In this episode, dancing champion Brendon Cole visited Vanuatu. He spent some time in a village where the locals instructed him on how to kill a chicken using a slingshot. He made the following comments about killing the chicken:

  • “I hope I knock it out first go because I’m not into this at all.”
  • “It feels really awful that I’m just stalking this poor bugger of a chicken but it’s dinner, it’s got to be done.”
  • “I don’t know how much is dead and how much is alive but that felt pretty awful...”
  • “I want to experience the life and I want to experience what’s going on but that’s pretty awful. I feel quite sick about it. Yuck. I’ve never killed an animal with my bare hands. Well I did shoot a bird once but it was kind of like by accident as a 14-year-old and I cried like a girl when I did it. That’s what happens here, that’s the way of life. But killing a chicken, it’s not for me.”

[2]  Sylvia Irwin made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, about Mr Cole’s “inhumane killing of a chicken”. She considered that he “tortured it by repeatedly stoning it with a slingshot”. Ms Irwin argued that it was inappropriate to “set up this incident of cruelty as entertainment”, and that “The attitude of derision and the prolonged killing, especially when shown in prime time, gives children and adults the impression that it is okay to be so violent to animals, and maybe people too, and also to laugh about it.”

[3]  The issue is whether the programme breached Standards 1 (good taste and decency), 9 (children’s interests) and 10 (violence) of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[4]  The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

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

[5]  Standard 1 states that broadcasters should observe standards of good taste and decency. The primary objective of this standard is to protect against the broadcast of 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 In this respect, the standard is intended to ensure that programmes reflect community norms of decorum and civility.

[6]  When we consider an alleged breach of good taste and decency, we take into account the context of the broadcast. On this occasion, the relevant contextual factors include:

  • Intrepid Journeys was broadcast at 7.30pm during children’s viewing times
  • it was rated PGR
  • the programme was not preceded by a warning
  • the programme’s adult target audience
  • the premise of Intrepid Journeys was that the guest gets to know the routines and traditions of other cultures and places.

[7]  TVNZ argued that it was clear that Mr Cole did not enjoy the experience of killing the chicken, but respected that this was how the villagers lived. In this respect it noted that getting to know other cultures was the basis for the series. It also pointed out that in all cultures, if people choose to eat meat, animals must be killed. It disagreed that the segment would have led to widespread cruelty to chickens, as it was being killed for a legitimate purpose. TVNZ considered that the programme was correctly rated PGR, and that the scenes complained about would not have offended most viewers, taking into account the relevant contextual factors.

[8]  The killing of animals for food is a fact of life, and the manner in which they are killed varies in different communities. The Intrepid Journeys series is now well-known, and viewers appreciate that the premise of the programme is that the celebrity guest explores another culture. Mr Cole made it very clear by his behaviour and his comments that he felt extremely uncomfortable and upset about killing the chicken (see paragraph [1]), but he wanted to engage with the villagers’ way of life and be respectful of their customs. He also clearly pointed out that the chicken was being killed for dinner. We therefore disagree that the footage conveyed the message that it was “okay to be violent to animals”, or that it encouraged viewers to kill animals in the manner depicted.

[9]  In addition, while some viewers might have appreciated a warning that the footage may be disturbing, we consider that the footage was well signposted, when Mr Cole said:

The knowledge of the land and how to live and be self-sufficient is just superb. I can’t believe how much time and effort goes into it. It’s a lot of work. It makes you appreciate what’s in front of you. Bit of a kafuffle before, loads of stuff going on, and it turns out the boys were catching a chicken. This is the method – slingshot.

[10]  One of the villagers was then shown demonstrating how to use the slingshot, and Mr Cole commented “Damn, what a way to go”, before the footage of him attempting to kill the chicken began. This signposting gave viewers an opportunity to decide whether or not they wished to watch. Further, the programme did not contain any gruesome images of the impact of the shots at the chicken, and only briefly showed the chicken when Mr Cole eventually killed it.

[11]  Accordingly, we do not consider that the footage was gratuitous, that it required a specific warning, or that it would have been unexpected in the context of a well-known series which was classified PGR and targeted at adults. Taking into account the above contextual factors, we are satisfied that the footage did not threaten current norms of good taste and decency in breach of Standard 1.

Did the broadcaster adequately consider children’s interests?

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

[13]  TVNZ noted that the programme was rated PGR which indicated to parents that children should be supervised and given guidance. It considered that the scene was clearly signposted within the programme so parents had time to exercise discretion. There was no indication the killing was carried out for enjoyment or to be cruel, it said; the chicken was to be eaten, and it was appropriate to show viewers where meat comes from.

[14]  As outlined in our consideration of Standard 1, we agree with the broadcaster that this segment illustrated the daily reality of the villagers Mr Cole visited, that killing animals for food is a fact of life, and that the scene subject to complaint was not gratuitous in that context. In this respect, we consider that the programme was educational, and that education is a valuable part of the right to freedom of expression. The footage in itself was not unsuitable for child viewers under the supervision of an adult, and did not warrant a higher classification of Adults Only or a later time of broadcast. In addition, as noted at paragraphs [9] and [10], the segment was well signposted, giving parents the opportunity to decide whether or not they wished their children to watch the segment.

[15]  Further, we reiterate our view that Mr Cole’s reactions to chasing and killing the chicken made it clear that he did not endorse the methods employed, so children would not have been left with the impression that animals should be killed in this way.

[16]  Accordingly, we are satisfied that the broadcaster adequately considered children’s interests, and we decline to uphold this part of the complaint.

Did the broadcaster exercise adequate care and discretion when dealing with the issue of violence?

[17]  Standard 10 states that broadcasters should exercise care and discretion when dealing with the issue of violence.

[18]  TVNZ reiterated its view that there was no element of cruelty and that Mr Cole was hunting dinner in the traditional manner of the people in the village. It reiterated its arguments above and concluded the footage was acceptable in a PGR programme and declined to uphold the complaint under Standard 10.

[19]  The Authority has previously considered a violence complaint about footage of crayfish being killed for food.3 In that decision, the Authority found that “while the programmes showed crayfish being killed in preparation for making food, the actions did not constitute ‘violence’ as envisaged by the standard”.

[20]  We understand the view that killing a chicken with a slingshot could be considered “violent” in the general sense of the word. However, while some viewers would disagree with the methods employed to kill the animal, the programme made it clear that this was part of the villagers’ way of life, and that the animal was being killed for food, rather than for the sake of being violent or cruel. We therefore do not consider that the footage amounted to the type of “violence” contemplated by Standard 10 (which refers, for example, to sexual violence, violence in the news and violent incidents in sports programmes).4

[21]  In any case, we are satisfied that the footage was consistent with the programme’s PGR rating, and was not unexpected given the premise of the programme and the fact that the scene itself was well signposted.

[22]  We therefore decline to uphold the Standard 10 complaint.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
27 March 2012

Appendix

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

1                  Sylvia Irwin’s formal complaint – 25 November 2011

2                 TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 12 December 2011

3                 Ms Irwin’s referral to the Authority – 19 December 2011

4                 TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 15 February 2012


1Turner and TVNZ, Decision No. 2008-112

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

3Irwin and TVNZ, Decision No. 2010-087

4For examples of what has previously amounted to “violence” for the purposes of Standard 10, see the Authority’s Practice Note: Exercising Care and Discretion in Relation to the Portrayal of Violence (Broadcasting Standards Authority, April 2008).