BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Vandenberg and CanWest RadioWorks Ltd - 2007-004

Members
  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
Dated
Complainant
  • Paul Vandenberg
Number
2007-004
Channel/Station
The Rock # 2

Complaint under section 8(1)(b) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
The Rock – stunt in which announcers let off fireworks to test “Jimmy’s ability to dodge fireworks” – allegedly in breach of law and order and social responsibility standards

Findings
Principle 2 (law and order) – subsumed under Principle 7

Principle 7 (social responsibility) – stunt was socially irresponsible – did not consider effects on child listeners – hosts’ manner trivialised the potential danger of aiming fireworks at another person – upheld

Order
Section 13(1)(a) – broadcast of a statement

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1]  In a segment called “Do Stuff to Jimmy” on The Rock, broadcast at approximately 8.15am on 20 October 2006, the announcers commented on the recent call to ban fireworks for public sale. They said they were going to look at “Jimmy’s ability to dodge fireworks” and described the type of fireworks they were using as approximately 50cm long and shooting out “seven flaming balls”. One of the announcers said the fireworks could be held by hand and added “don’t try this at home”.

[2]  The sounds of fireworks exploding could be heard, along with screams and laughter. One of the announcers called for a fire extinguisher and said “Jimmy was on fire but looks okay. Bugger”.

Complaint and Referral to the Authority

[3]  Paul Vandenberg made a formal complaint about the item to CanWest RadioWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the broadcast breached Principle 7 (social responsibility) of the Radio Code. He noted that this principle required broadcasters to be “mindful of the effect any programme may have on children during their normally accepted listening times”. Mr Vandenberg wrote that it was fair to assume children would be listening as the segment was broadcast before 9am.

[4]  In the complainant’s view, by “wilfully misusing fireworks through holding them in their hands, aiming them at another person and trivialising the effects of being hit” with fireworks, CanWest had failed in its duty to be socially responsible.

[5]  Mr Vandenberg also contended that the broadcast breached Principle 2 (law and order). Aiming fireworks at another person and setting them on fire was an illegal act, he said, and it should not have been broadcast. He maintained that the broadcast was “absolutely stupid and dangerous”.

[6]  As he did not receive a decision from the broadcaster within 20 working days, Mr Vandenberg referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1)(b) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

Principles

[7]  Principles 2 and 7 and guidelines 2a and 7b of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice are relevant to the determination of this complaint. They provide:

Principle 2

In programmes and their presentation, broadcasters are required to maintain standards which are consistent with the maintenance of law and order.

Guideline 2a
   
Care should be taken in broadcasting items which explain the technique of crime in a manner which invites imitation.

Principle 7

In programmes and their presentation, broadcasters are required to be socially responsible.

Guideline 7b
   
Broadcasters shall be mindful of the effect any programme may have on children during their normally accepted listening times.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[8]  CanWest apologised to the complainant for failing to send him a formal response to his complaint. It noted that the Authority had stated on a number of occasions that the intent behind Principle 2 was to prevent broadcasts that encouraged the audience to break the law, or otherwise promoted, glamorised or condoned criminal activity (Decision No. 2006-051).

[9]  The broadcaster noted that one of the announcers had specifically told listeners “don’t try this at home”, and it did not consider that the item encouraged listeners to break the law. It wrote:

There is no question that the stunt was foolish and potentially dangerous but the target audience of this station is males aged 25-44, all of whom, the [standards] committee is confident, would have sufficient life experience to know that shooting fireworks at a person is a dangerous thing to do and many of whom enjoy watching and listening to silly and dangerous stunts of this kind (e.g. Jackass and programmes of that genre).

[10]  CanWest advised that, although listeners could not tell from the audio, the person at whom the fireworks were fired was wearing “sufficient protective gear to ensure that no serious injury would result” from being hit. In this sense, it argued, the stunt was no different from any dramatic work in which stuntmen and women undertook risk for dramatic effect.

[11]  In these circumstances, primarily given the age and maturity of the listening audience, CanWest found no breach of the principles had occurred.

Authority's Determination

[12]  The members of the Authority have listened to 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.

Principle 7 (social responsibility)

[13]  In the Authority’s view, broadcasting a stunt which involved shooting fireworks at a person was socially irresponsible and breached Principle 7. It notes that the segment was broadcast two weeks prior to Guy Fawkes day, at a time when there is a high incidence of fireworks-related injuries and damage to property. The Authority considers that the hosts’ amusement when “Jimmy” caught fire was inappropriate and thoughtless.

[14]  Furthermore, the Authority takes into account the fact that the segment was broadcast at 8.15am on a Friday morning. In the Authority’s view, the broadcaster did not consider the effect that such a stunt might have on child listeners (guideline 7b). It agrees with the complainant’s view that the hosts’ light-hearted manner trivialised the potential consequences of aiming fireworks at another person, and, as a result, children may not have comprehended the dangerous nature of their actions.

[15]  Having determined that the broadcast was socially irresponsible, the Authority upholds the Principle 7 complaint.

Principle 2 (law and order)

[16]  The Authority considers that Mr Vandenberg’s concerns about the recklessness and danger of the stunt have been adequately addressed above in its consideration of Principle 7. Accordingly, it subsumes this part of the complaint into its consideration of Principle 7.

Bill of Rights

[17]  For the avoidance of doubt, the Authority records that it has given full weight to the provisions of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 and taken into account all the circumstances of the complaint in reaching this determination. For the reasons given above, the Authority considers that its exercise of powers on this occasion is consistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.

 

For the above reasons the Authority upholds the complaint that the broadcast by CanWest RadioWorks Ltd of a segment on The Rock on 20 October 2006 breached Principle 7 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[18]  Having upheld a complaint, the Authority may impose orders under ss.13 and 16 of the Broadcasting Act 1989. It invited submissions from the parties.

[19]  Mr Vandenberg submitted that the Authority should order the broadcast of a statement, making sure that it did not explain in detail what was done in the broadcast.

[20]  CanWest said that, while it accepted that this could not form part of the Authority’s decision on penalty,it would make time available to the Fire Service (or other appropriate organisation) to broadcast fireworks safety messages closer to Guy Fawkes’ Day this year.

[21]  Having considered the submissions from both parties, the Authority considers it appropriate to order CanWest to broadcast a statement summarising the upheld aspects of the Authority’s decision. It notes that a video of the stunt complained about can be viewed on The Rock’s website. The Authority orders that the statement must accompany this video as long as it remains available for viewing.

[22]  The Authority also acknowledges CanWest’s offer to broadcast fire safety messages and agrees that this would be an appropriate course of action.

Order

Pursuant to section 13(1)(a) of the Act, the Authority orders CanWest RadioWorks Ltd to broadcast, within one month of the date of this decision, a statement explaining why the complaint was upheld. The statement shall be approved by the Authority and broadcast at a time and date to be approved by the Authority.

The Authority also orders that the approved statement be published on The Rock’s website, www.therock.net.nz, on the web-page from which this item is viewable, for as long as the item remains accessible.

The Authority draws the broadcaster’s attention to the requirement in s.13(3)(b) of the Act for the broadcaster to give notice to the Authority of the manner in which the above order has been complied with.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
30 May 2007

Appendix

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

1    Paul Vandenberg’s formal complaint – 31 October 2006

2    Mr Vandenberg’s referral to the Authority – 8 January 2007

3    CanWest’s response to the referral – 1 February 2007

4    Mr Vandenberg’s submissions on orders – 28 March 2007

5    CanWest’s submissions on orders – 16 April 2007