BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Judge and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2016-068 (19 January 2017)

Members
  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Paula Rose
Dated
Complainant
  • Paul Judge
Number
2016-068
Programme
Seven Sharp
Channel/Station
TV One

Summary

[This summary does not form part of the decision.]

An item on Seven Sharp discussed a five-week, outdoor ‘life skills’ camp held for high school students on Great Barrier Island. Footage of a sheep being restrained to be killed for food, the sheep’s dead body and blood, and the gutting of the sheep was shown. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the killing of the sheep was ‘brutal’ and unacceptable for broadcast. While the footage was graphic and would not have appealed to all viewers, it was adequately signposted during the item, which enabled viewers to exercise discretion and decide whether to continue watching. The actual killing of the sheep was not shown, and the footage appeared to show standard, accepted practices of killing animals for food in New Zealand. In the context of an unclassified current affairs programme screened during PGR time and aimed at adults, the footage did not reach the threshold for finding a breach of standards.

Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Violence


Introduction

[1]  An item on Seven Sharp discussed a five-week, outdoor ‘life skills’ camp held for high school students on Great Barrier Island. Footage of a sheep being restrained to be killed for food, the sheep’s dead body and blood, and the gutting of the sheep was shown.

[2]  Paul Judge complained that the killing of the sheep was ‘brutal’ and graphic, and unacceptable to screen during Seven Sharp.

[3]  The issue raised in Mr Judge’s complaint is whether the broadcast breached the good taste and decency and violence standards as set out in the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[4]  The programme was broadcast on TV ONE at 7pm on 28 July 2016. 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 item breach broadcasting standards?

[5]  Mr Judge’s complaint raises similar issues under the good taste and decency and violence standards. As the same contextual factors and other considerations are relevant to our assessment of both standards in this case, we have addressed them together.

[6]  The purpose of the good taste and decency standard (Standard 1) is to protect audience members from viewing broadcasts that are likely to cause widespread undue offence or distress, or undermine widely shared community standards. Broadcasters should take effective steps to inform audiences of the nature of the programme, and enable viewers to regulate their own and children’s viewing behaviour.1

[7]  The violence standard (Standard 4) states that broadcasters should exercise care and discretion when dealing with the issue of violence. Violent content should be appropriate to the context of the programme, and classified carefully.

The parties’ submissions

[8]  Mr Judge submitted:

  • The footage showed the sheep – which was clearly distressed – being ‘brutally’ and ‘graphically’ killed with a knife.
  • The footage was gruesome, gratuitous and glorified the killing of animals.
  • The sequence happened quickly and there was insufficient warning to viewers to avert their attention.
  • ‘Audiences do not expect to see innocent animals taunted and then slaughtered as part of a news item on educating schoolboys’.

[9]  TVNZ submitted:

  • The item was ‘very clear in signalling the slaughter of the sheep before it occurred’, so ‘viewers... were able to make an informed decision about whether they wished to view such material and therefore a warning was not required in the circumstances’.
  • The item did not show the sheep being killed and it was clear the slaughter was not intended to be cruel.
  • The footage was shown as part of the learning experience for the students ‘having a clear understanding of where the meat they eat comes from’.
  • ‘The primary focus of the item was to show how great the camp was for the students’ self-esteem and the different facets of camp life, including the slaughter of a sheep for meat’.
  • The footage was not gruesome or gratuitous in the context of a news and current affairs programme which is aimed at adults, screened in PGR time, and carries an expectation that any child viewers will be under adult supervision.
  • While the violence standard does not define ‘violence’, it is generally applied to incidents involving people rather than killing animals for food. Nevertheless, overall, adequate care and discretion was exercised when dealing with the issue of violence.

Our analysis

[10]  When we consider a complaint under the good taste and decency and violence standards, we take into account relevant contextual factors, which here include:

  • Seven Sharp is an unclassified current affairs programme which screens in PGR time
  • Seven Sharp is targeted at an adult audience
  • the time of broadcast at 7pm
  • the graphic nature of the footage
  • the item was not preceded by an express warning
  • other signposting of the footage during the item
  • the sheep was not shown being killed onscreen
  • the level of public interest in the item and the importance of freedom of expression.

[11]  While the violence standard will in most cases apply to depictions of, or references to, violence among people, the Authority has previously considered this standard in relation to footage of alleged cruelty against animals.2

[12]  We acknowledge that the footage relating to the slaughter of the sheep was graphic, and would not have appealed to all viewers. However, the Authority has previously found that the killing of animals for food is a fact of life in New Zealand society, and the broadcast of footage of this nature will usually be acceptable where there is not undue depiction of cruelty.3 In this case we do not consider the footage reached the threshold necessary to find a breach of standards.

[13]  The actual killing of the sheep was not shown onscreen during the item. The sheep was not treated in a cruel or unusual way; the footage appeared to show standard, accepted practices of killing animals for food. For example, the sheep was kept in an enclosed, dark area under a cover, and only one student was seen restraining the sheep. The point being made in killing the sheep for food, which was emphasised by the instructor during the item, was to educate the students about where food comes from.

[14]  We also consider that the footage was adequately signposted during the item. The item began with the reporter saying, ‘It’s hands-on learning – and sometimes, hands in’, while very brief shots of the sheep’s body, a hunting knife, and a student starting to gut the sheep (among a montage of the students’ other camp activities) were shown. The instructor in a voiceover was heard saying, ‘Don’t worry about the blood, it’ll wash off’. Part-way through the item, before the sheep was shown being restrained to be killed, the instructor commented onscreen, ‘the vast majority [of teenagers] have actually forgotten where food comes from’. These comments gave an indication of the nature of the content that was likely to follow, and enabled viewers to exercise discretion and make a decision whether to continue watching, and whether to allow children to watch.

[15]  In this context, and considering that Seven Sharp is an unclassified current affairs programme screened during PGR time and aimed at adults, we are satisfied that overall the broadcaster exercised adequate care and discretion in broadcasting the footage, and the footage did not reach the level where it threatened norms of good taste and decency. There was public interest and educational value in the item’s message, namely that teenagers these days lack life skills, are ‘too enamoured in technology’ and ‘the vast majority have actually forgotten where food comes from’.

[16]  For these reasons we do not uphold the complaint under Standards 1 and 4.

For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

 

Peter Radich
Chair
19 January 2017

 

Appendix

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

1      Paul Judge’s formal complaint – 29 July 2016
2      TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 26 August 2016
3      Mr Judge’s referral to the Authority – 11 September 2016
4      TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 23 November 2016

 


1 Guideline 1b to Standard 1
2 For example, see Knight and Television New Zealand, Decision No. 2016-028
3 For example, see Andersson and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2016-043 at [20]