BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Monckton and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2007-053

Members
  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
Dated
Complainant
  • Brian Monckton
Number
2007-053
Programme
One News
Channel/Station
TV One

Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
One News – repetition of footage showing an unprovoked attack on Korean youths by two “skinheads” – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency, law and order and violence standards.

Findings
Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – repetition of sequence helped emphasise vicious nature of attack – contextual factors – not upheld 

Standard 2 (law and order) – item did not glamorise behaviour or encourage imitation – not upheld

Standard 10 (violence) – repetition of sequence not gratuitous – verbal warning sufficient – justified in the context – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1]  An item on One News, broadcast on TV One at 6pm on 1 May 2007, reported the sentencing of two “skinheads” involved in a racist attack on a group of Korean youths in Nelson.

[2]  The item showed security camera footage of the attack which included one of the men kicking a Korean youth in the face. This footage was repeated five times during the item.

[3]  The item was preceded by a warning which said:

We warn that our next report contains security camera images of a vicious racist attack.

Complaint

[4]  Brian Monckton made a formal complaint about the item to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the repetition of the footage was “gratuitous revelling in violence”, and “could arguably incite others to do the same”.

[5]  The complainant believed that showing the footage once would have been sufficient and that there was no justification for repeating it.

Standards

[6]  TVNZ assessed the complaint under Standards 1, 2 and 10 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting, which 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.

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

[7]  TVNZ contended that the security camera pictures had played a central role in securing the conviction of the two men and therefore it was an important part of the story. The broadcaster argued that viewers were able to see for themselves the evidence on which the men were convicted and, based on that, could make up their minds as to whether justice had been done in this case.

[8]  In considering Standard 1, TVNZ stated that highlighting the cruel and unprovoked nature of the attack in a television news item was not in itself a breach of good taste and decency. The broadcaster maintained the repetition of the sequence did not make it gratuitous and, as such, no breach of good taste and decency occurred.

[9]  TVNZ wrote that there had been no breach of Standard 2, because One News had not acted inconsistently with the maintenance of law and order. It argued that by showing the men being sentenced in court, the item did not glamorise criminal activity or encourage imitation.

[10]  The broadcaster also concluded that Standard 10 was not breached. It referred to guideline 10g, which states that broadcasters were required “not to falsify, by omission, a world in which much violence and brutality occurs, that it must make clear that such actions have painful and bloody consequences”. It argued One News had achieved this by repeating the sequence which showed the intensity of the kick and stating that the victim had required stitches to his face.

[11]  TVNZ pointed out that the item was preceded by a warning and it maintained that no breach of standards had occurred.

Referral to the Authority

[12]  Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s response, Mr Monckton referred his complaint to the Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. The complainant reiterated that it was not the showing of the footage which formed the substance of his complaint, but its repetition.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[13]  In its response to the Authority, the broadcaster stated that the behaviour in the sequence was not glorified in any way. TVNZ maintained that it was a shocking case of unprovoked violence and that it had been proper not to downplay the nature of the attack. It reiterated that the item was preceded by a warning.

Authority's Determination

[14]  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 1 (good taste and decency)

[15]  When the Authority considers a complaint alleging a breach of good taste and decency it is required to consider the context in which the programme was broadcast. Relevant contextual factors on this occasion include:

  • the item was broadcast at 6pm
  • the programme had an adult target audience
  • news and current affairs programmes are unclassified
  • the item was preceded by a strong verbal warning.

[16]  The Authority agrees with the broadcaster that the repetition of the sequence complained about was not gratuitous; rather it helped to emphasise the random, unprovoked and vicious nature of the attack. Further, the Authority is of the view that the verbal warning that preceded the item was sufficient to warn viewers of its violent and disturbing content.

[17]  Taking the above contextual factors into account, the Authority declines to uphold the good taste and decency complaint.

Standard 10 (violence)

[18]  Standard 10 requires broadcasters to exercise care and discretion when dealing with the issue of violence.

[19]  The Authority observes that a strong warning preceded the item, stating that the report contained “images of a vicious racist attack”. It considers that the introduction to the item and the warning made it clear that the item’s content was not suitable for children, and afforded parents and caregivers adequate opportunity to exercise discretion. Further, it reiterates its view that the repetition of the images was not gratuitous in the context of the item.

[20]  Taking into account the contextual factors listed in paragraph [15] above, the Authority finds that TVNZ exercised care and discretion when dealing with the issue of violence on this occasion. Accordingly, it declines to uphold the Standard 10 complaint.

Standard 2 (law and order)

[21]  The Authority has stated on a number of occasions that the intent behind the law and order standard is to prevent broadcasts that encourage viewers to break the law, or otherwise promote, glamorise or condone criminal activity (see for example Decision No. 2006-051). It agrees with TVNZ that the item did not glamorise the violent attack or encourage imitation. The Authority is of the view that the footage showing the two men being sentenced in court and the comments made by the presiding judge helped to reinforce the reprehensible nature of the men’s actions.

[22]  The Authority concludes that the item was not inconsistent with the maintenance of law and order, and therefore it declines to uphold the Standard 2.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
14 August 2007

Appendix

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

1     Brian Monckton’s formal complaint – 1 May 2007

2    TVNZ’s decision on the formal complaint – 23 May 2007

3    Mr Monckton’s referral to the Authority – 27 May 2007

4    TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 6 June 2007

5    Mr Monckton’s final comment – 17 June 2007