Kuehn and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2008-060
- Joanne Morris (Chair)
- Diane Musgrave
- Tapu Misa
- Paul France
- Lorne Kuehn
BroadcasterTelevision New Zealand Ltd
Complaint under section 8(1C) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
One News – item on duck hunting – hunter pointed a rifle at the camera – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency, law and order and violence
Standard 2 (law and order) – hunter’s action was intended to be humorous and light-hearted – did not encourage viewers to break the law or promote, condone or glamorise criminal activity – not upheld
Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – subsumed into consideration of Standard 2
Standard 10 (violence) – subsumed into consideration of Standard 2
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
 An item on One News, broadcast on TV One at approximately 6.55pm on Friday 2 May 2008, reported on a group of duck-hunting “Southern men” who held an annual award ceremony for the best maimai (a camouflaged construction that shelters and hides duck hunters while they wait for ducks). The item looked at two different maimais, one consisting of a raised camouflaged caravan and the other, a small house-like structure that had running water, beer on tap and SKY television.
 While discussing one of the maimais, the reporter explained that she could not reveal the secret of where it was located. Footage was then shown of a man sitting down with a rifle in his hands. In reference to the maimai’s location, the man stated “Mmm can’t really tell you that, or I’d have to shoot ya”. As he made the statement, the man pointed the rifle at the camera, with viewers looking directly down the barrel.
 Lorne Kuehn made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the footage of the man pointing the gun at the camera breached standards of good taste and decency, law and order and violence.
 The complainant argued that “current public firearms courses insist that firearms never be presented point-on to human beings, even in jest, as such action could encourage subsequent carelessness”. He also contended that the direct presentation of the firearm to viewers accompanied with the verbal threat violated standards of good taste and decency, “especially at the hour shown and the nature of the programme containing it”. Referring to guidelines 1a and 1b to Standard 1 (good taste and decency), the complainant argued that the scene violated current practice for safe gun handling and that the item should have been accompanied by a warning.
 Mr Kuehn submitted the scene had breached the law and order standard, specifically guidelines 2a, 2b and 2c, because it could be considered a careless use of a firearm, which was an offence under the Arms Act 1983.
 Referring to the violence standard, the complainant contended that the scene was “at the upper end of staged violence” and was likely to impact on impressionable and vulnerable people. He contended that guideline 10a of the violence standard had been breached because the scene was “gratuitous and not in the public interest”. Mr Kuehn believed that guideline 10g had also been breached because the scene depicted “a criminal execution of the interviewer, and by implication, the general viewing public”.
 Standards 1, 2 and 10 and guidelines 2a, 2b and 2c 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
In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are responsible for maintaining standards which are consistent with the observance of good taste and decency.
Standard 2 Law and Order
In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are responsible for maintaining standards which are consistent with the maintenance of law and order.
2a Broadcasters must respect the principles of law which sustain our society.
2b Factual programmes should not glamorise criminal activity or condone the actions of criminals.
2c Programmes should not depict or describe techniques of crime in a manner which invites imitation.
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.
Referral to the Authority
 Having not received a response from TVNZ within 20 working days, Mr Kuehn referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1C) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He reiterated the arguments contained in his formal complaint.
Broadcaster's Response to the Authority
 TVNZ stated that to constitute a breach of Standard 1, the broadcast material must be unacceptable to a significant number of viewers in the context in which it was shown. It contended that the item did not require a warning as it did not include any violent material or other material that would disturb children or offend a significant number of adult viewers.
 The broadcaster argued that the statement made by the man was not meant to be taken seriously and that the majority of viewers would have “viewed it as it was intended, as a joke made by the hunter in a bid to protect the secret location of his luxurious maimai”. It found that the hunter’s comment and the shot of the gun pointing at the camera would not have offended a significant number of viewers, and it declined to uphold the good taste and decency complaint.
 With respect to Standard 2 (law and order), TVNZ argued that for a breach of this standard to occur, the item must actively promote disrespect for the law. It considered that the comment made by the hunter was not a “threat of death”, and that it was intended to be light-hearted and humorous, noting that he was grinning when he made the statement. The broadcaster pointed out that the hunter had pointed the gun at the camera and not at another human being. Accordingly, it declined to uphold the complaint that the item breached Standard 2.
 The broadcaster also disagreed that Standard 10 (violence) had been breached as no actual violence was shown in the segment complained about. It contended that the shot of the gun to the camera was “very brief, done in humour” and did not breach standards relating to violence. TVNZ declined to uphold the complaint.
Broadcaster’s Further Submission
 TVNZ stated that “in reconsidering the matter, the Committee agrees that although the shot was brief and intended to be light-hearted, it was not a responsible shot to include”. Further, it said that it had asked its newsroom staff to refrain from using similar shots in any future news items concerning guns.
Complainant’s Further Submission
 Mr Kuehn did not think that the “signs of contrition in the TVNZ letter” were “sufficient in respect to the irresponsibility shown”.
 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 2 (law and order)
 The Authority has stated on previous occasions (see Decision 2005-133) that the intent behind the law and order standard is to prevent broadcasts that encourage viewers to break the law or which otherwise promote, condone or glamorise criminal behaviour.
 The Authority agrees with the complainant that the safe use of firearms is a serious issue. However, while the act of pointing a firearm at a camera is certainly irresponsible, the Authority is not the appropriate body to determine whether the hunter’s behaviour was criminal. In any case, broadcasting illegal behaviour would not necessarily amount to a breach of Standard 2; the broadcaster would have to actively promote, condone or glamorise that behaviour for the Authority to uphold a complaint under the law and order standard.
 In this case, irrespective of whether the hunter’s behaviour amounted to criminal activity, the Authority considers that the item did not encourage viewers to act in a similar fashion, nor did it promote, condone or glamorise the hunter’s actions.
 In the Authority’s view, the segment was intended to be humorous and jovial, with the hunter grinning as he made the statement “Hmm, can’t really tell you that or I’d have to shoot ya” when referring to his maimai’s secret location. It was clearly intended as a joke, and the Authority considers that most viewers would have understood this. The broadcaster did nothing further to promote or glamorise the behaviour.
 For the reasons outlined above, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint that the item breached Standard 2 (law and order). It does, however, note with approval that the broadcaster has asked its newsroom staff to refrain from using similar shots in the future.
Standard 1 (good taste and decency) and Standard 10 (violence)
 The Authority considers that the complainant’s concerns under these standards have been adequately dealt with in its consideration of the law and order standard. Accordingly, the Authority subsumes its consideration of Standard 1 (good taste and decency) and Standard 10 (violence) into its consideration of Standard 2 (law and order).
For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
18 September 2008
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1. Lorne Kuehn’s formal complaint – 14 May 2008
2. Mr Kuehn’s referral to the Authority – 18 June 2008
3. TVNZ’s response to the Authority and further submission – 11 July 2008
4. Mr Kuehn’s response to TVNZ’s further submission – 23 July 2008