BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Pollard and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2005-079

Members
  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
Dated
Complainant
  • Catherine Pollard
Number
2005-079
Programme
Border Patrol
Channel/Station
TV One

Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Border Patrol – footage of hedgehogs and ducks to which explosives had been attached – footage of wall splattered with blood and feathers – allegedly offensive and unsuitable for children

Findings
Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – context – not upheld

Standard 9 (children’s interests) – restrained images – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1] A disc containing images of extreme cruelty to animals was among hundreds of discs seized by a Customs Officer. The seizure was dealt with in an episode of Border Patrol and the item included footage of hedgehogs and ducks which had been tied up and had explosives attached to them. It also included footage of walls splattered with blood and feathers. The episode of Border Patrol was broadcast on TV One at 7.30pm on 23 May 2005.

Complaint

[2] Catherine Pollard complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the material was “objectionable” and should not have been broadcast at a time when young children would have been watching television.

Standards

[3] TVNZ assessed the complaint under the following provisions in the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice:

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.

Guideline 1a

Broadcasters must take into consideration current norms of decency and taste in language and behaviour bearing in mind the context in which any language or behaviour occurs. Examples of context are the time of the broadcast, the type of programme, the target audience, the use of warnings and the programme’s classification. The examples are not exhaustive.

Standard 9 Children’s Interests

During children’s normally accepted viewing times, broadcasters are required, in the preparation and presentation of programmes, to consider the interests of child viewers.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[4] TVNZ explained that the item dealt with the actions taken by border officials when they had located a large quantity of what appeared to be pornographic material, as well as discs containing images of extreme cruelty to animals. The item concluded by reporting that a man returning from overseas had been convicted and fined $7,000.

[5] TVNZ then contemplated whether it was in the invidious position of being “damned” by some viewers for releasing details of the discs, and “damned” by others if it did not do so. Describing the media’s prime role as being the exposure of wrong-doing, it argued that in the current instance most viewers would have been outraged by the individual’s actions and would have applauded the customs officer’s successful efforts.

[6] Expressing the opinion that the complainant’s anger was misdirected in focusing on the broadcaster rather than the person who carried out the cruel acts, TVNZ pointed out that the images on the screen had been “deliberately and thoroughly blurred” and there were no shots of animals exploding.

[7] Turning to the standards, TVNZ maintained that exposure of atrocities was not offensive. It also noted that the programme had been classified PGR and preceded by a verbal and visual warning. It declined to uphold the Standard 1 (good taste and decency) complaint.

[8] As for Standard 9 (children’s interests), TVNZ said the imagery chosen did not show actual harm being done to animals. Further, the classification and the warning also showed the care that had been taken, and it declined to uphold the Standard 9 complaint.

Referral to the Authority

[9] Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s decision, Ms Pollard referred her complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

[10] Pointing out that she did not challenge the public’s right to know about animal cruelty, Ms Pollard complained that the graphic and disturbing scenes of extreme animal cruelty should not have been screened at 7.30pm. She acknowledged that there were no shots of animals exploding, but there was “explicit visual information regarding the series of events that had occurred”. She contended that TVNZ had chosen “to sensationalise” animal cruelty.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[11] TVNZ did not accept that the truthful report in the item amounted to sensationalising animal cruelty. Rather, it maintained, it had reported accurately one person’s horrifying actions and, in doing so, had complied with the broadcasting standards relating to accuracy and the portrayal of violence.

Complainant’s Final Comment

[12] Ms Pollard advised that she had watched a recent current affairs item, also broadcast at 7.30pm, which dealt with the social problems that arose from violence against animals. She noted that the item showed some of the footage from Border Patrol but had been accompanied by “strongly worded warnings” and had illustrated the issue being discussed. It did not, she wrote, “come across as pure sensationalism”. Furthermore, she said, it was unlikely to be material which children would happen upon by chance, as could occur with Border Patrol.

Authority's Determination

[13] The members of the Authority have viewed a tape of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

[14] When the Authority determines a complaint that a broadcast breaches the good taste and decency standard, it is required to take the context of the broadcast into account.

[15] The Authority acknowledges that the images included in the item were more dramatic than are usually contained in Border Patrol. The topic itself was shocking. Accordingly, it understands why the complainant believed the contents were objectionable.

[16] Nevertheless, the Authority considers that the broadcaster exercised appropriate restraint. There were no images of animals exploding, and some of the other images were blurred. Along with the context of the item, the Authority also takes into account the time of the broadcast (7.30pm), its PGR rating, and the warning. In view of these matters, the Authority concludes that the item did not breach Standard 1 (good taste and decency).

[17] Those matters are also relevant to the Authority’s decision on the complaint that the broadcaster did not consider the interests of children. Paying particular attention to the point that the visual images were discreet, the Authority concludes that the broadcast did not breach Standard 9 (children’s interests).

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
20 September 2005

Appendix

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

  1. Catherine Pollard’s formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd (through the Broadcasting Standards Authority) – 25 May 2005
  2. TVNZ’s response to the formal complaint – 22 June 2005
  3. Ms Pollard’s referral to the Authority – 29 June 2005
  4. TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 20 July 2005
  5. Ms Pollard’s final comment – 4 August 2005