BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Jones and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2009-046

Members
  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
Dated
Complainant
  • Andrew Jones
Number
2009-046
Programme
One News at 4.30
Channel/Station
TV One

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
One News At 4.30 – report on a suicide bombing in Sri Lanka – showed footage of moments before and after the explosion – allegedly in breach of children’s interests and violence standards

Findings
Standard 9 (children's interests) and Standard 10 (violence) – no graphic material – appropriate warning given – complainant mistaken about content of item – broadcaster sufficiently considered children’s interests – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1]   An item on One News At 4.30, broadcast on TV One at 4.30pm on Wednesday 11 March 2009, reported that "dramatic pictures have emerged showing the moments just before a deadly suicide bombing attack on Muslims in Sri Lanka". The presenter warned viewers that "you may find the pictures disturbing". Footage of men walking down a street was shown, accompanied by a statement by the presenter that "this video shows men parading down a street as they celebrate a religious holiday, and then, the bomb explodes". An explosion among the group was shown, and the camera turned sharply as the person operating it ran from the scene. It was reported that at least 14 people had been killed and 45 injured, while footage showed emergency vehicles arriving at the scene. An injured man lying on a stretcher was shown briefly from the chest up.

Complaint

[2]  Andrew Jones made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the item breached the children’s interests and violence standards. He maintained the item had shown an explosion followed by shots of bodies in body bags. He said that his children were disturbed and alarmed by the footage, and argued it should not have been broadcast at a time when children were likely to be watching television. Mr Jones also contended that the broadcaster had failed to exercise discretion when deciding the degree of graphic detail to be included in a news programme broadcast when children were likely to be watching.

Standards

[3]  TVNZ assessed the complaint under Standards 9 and 10 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. Mr Jones also nominated guidelines 9a and 10g. These provide:

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.

Guideline 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 which would disturb or alarm them.

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.

Guideline 10g

News, current affairs and factual programmes will, by their nature, often contain violent, disturbing or alarming material. Broadcasters should not falsify, by omission, a world in which much violence and brutality occurs. When such scenes are necessarily included to serve the public interest, the fact that violence has painful and bloody consequences should be made clear. However, editors and producers must use judgement and discretion in deciding the degree of graphic detail to be included in news programmes when children are likely to be watching. Warnings within news programmes must be used as appropriate.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[4]  TVNZ maintained that the item did not contain any footage of bodies in bags or graphic images of "blood and gore". A brief shot of the explosion was shown, it said, followed by footage of the crowd dispersing and one brief image of a man lying on a stretcher. Further, the presenter issued a verbal warning to viewers that the upcoming pictures may disturb, giving parents ample opportunity to decide whether to allow children to watch.

[5]  TVNZ noted that the Authority had previously acknowledged that children are unlikely to watch the news unattended, and considered that the item would not have unnecessarily alarmed or disturbed children in the company of an adult. It concluded that children’s interests were sufficiently considered, and declined to uphold the Standard 9 complaint.

[6]  Turning to Standard 10, TVNZ acknowledged that footage of a suicide bombing was likely to give a sense of "violent and unpredictable death" as alleged by the complainant. However, it noted that the beginning of guideline 10g to the violence standard states that:

News, current affairs and factual programmes will, by their nature, often contain violent, disturbing or alarming material. Broadcasters should not falsify, by omission, a world in which much violence and brutality occurs.

[7]  The broadcaster reiterated that, while the item did contain a brief shot of the explosion, and one brief image of a man lying on a stretcher, no graphically bloody or gory scenes were included. Nor were any shots of bodies in bags shown. Further, a verbal warning was issued before the footage. TVNZ therefore concluded that it had exercised sufficient care and discretion when dealing with the issue of violence and declined to uphold the Standard 10 complaint.

Referral to the Authority

[8]  Dissatisfied with TVNZ's response, Mr Jones referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He considered that TVNZ’s assumption that unsupervised children were unlikely to watch the news was questionable, and that the broadcaster should have given greater weight to the possibility that children could have been watching unattended.

Authority's Determination

[9]  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 9 (children’s interests) and Standard 10 (violence)

[10]  Standard 9 requires broadcasters to consider the interests of child viewers during their normally accepted viewing times – usually up to 8.30pm – and avoid screening material which would disturb or alarm children. The Authority has previously stated that unaccompanied children are unlikely to watch news programmes (see, for example, Decision No. 2009-009), even if they are screened during children’s viewing times, as they are more inclined towards programming which is targeted at them.

[11]  The complainant was concerned that the item included images of "bodies in body bags". Having viewed the item, the Authority notes that Mr Jones was mistaken in this respect; the item included only one image of a man lying on a stretcher, who was shown from the chest up wrapped in a blanket, and was not visibly injured.

[12]  The Authority notes that the footage showed a group of people walking down a street, a sudden flash of light behind them as the bomb exploded, and the ensuing confusion and chaos as people tried to run away. The item excluded any graphic images of injured people, and showed only discreet footage of the aftermath of the explosion. The Authority considers that the material included was acceptable in the context of factual coverage of an event, and was not sensationalised or gratuitous. In these circumstances, it finds that the item would not likely have distressed or alarmed child viewers when accompanied by a parent or guardian.

[13]  Further, the introduction to the item said that, "dramatic pictures have emerged showing the moments just before a deadly suicide bombing attack on Muslims in Sri Lanka". The presenter warned viewers that, "you may find the pictures disturbing". In the Authority's view, together with the item's introduction, this warning was appropriate and clearly signposted the likely content of the item. The Authority finds that the broadcaster provided sufficient opportunity for parents and caregivers to decide whether they wanted their children to watch the item.

[14]  The Authority notes that Mr Jones referred to guideline 9h in his referral, which states:

In news breaks screened during programming specifically directed towards children, broadcasters should not normally use images or descriptions likely to alarm or disturb children, except in cases of public interest.

[15]  This guideline is directed towards news updates or special bulletins during children’s programming. Because the item complained about was part of a scheduled half-hour news programme, guideline 9h is not relevant on this occasion.

[16]  Accordingly, the Authority is satisfied that TVNZ adequately considered the interests of child viewers, and it declines to uphold the Standard 9 complaint.

[17]  For the same reasons outlined in paragraphs [10] to [13] above, the Authority also declines to uphold the complaint that the item breached Standard 10. As discussed, the item did not include any graphic images, was sufficiently signposted, and would not likely have disturbed or alarmed child viewers. Accordingly, the Authority concludes that TVNZ exercised sufficient care and discretion when dealing with the issue of violence.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
8 July 2009

Appendix

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

1.         Andrew Jones' formal complaint – 11 March 2009
2.        TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 8 April 2009
3.        Mr Jones’ referral to the Authority – 2 May 2009
4.        TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 28 May 2009