BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Young and TVWorks Ltd - 2011-050

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • Peter Young
Campbell Live
TVWorks Ltd
TV3 # 3

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Campbell Live – montage of footage from earthquake and tsunami in Japan – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency standard

Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – montage showed poignant images depicting international news event – music accompanying the images did not glorify or detract from the disaster – contextual factors – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision. 


[1]  Campbell Live, broadcast on TV3 at 7pm on 15 March 2011, concluded with a montage of footage, accompanied by music, from the earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan on 11 March.


[2]  Peter Young made a formal complaint to TVWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the “sequence of footage of the Japan tsunami in slow motion and accompanied by ethereal mood music” breached standards relating to good taste and decency. He considered that “turning the deaths of 10,000... [people] into an art piece only four days afterwards is highly offensive”.


[3]  TVWorks assessed the complaint under Standard 1 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, which provides:

Standard 1 Good Taste and Decency

Broadcasters should observe standards of good taste and decency.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Complainant

[4]  TVWorks noted that on the evening of 11 March, all major international television networks had broadcast live images of Japan as the tsunami unfolded. It said that on 15 March, a Campbell Live reporter ran a story from a Japanese village hit hard by the tsunami, and the host John Campbell also interviewed a nuclear expert.

[5]  TVWorks said that the episode was concluded with a montage of the “most powerful images” of the tsunami. It argued that “this was one of the most devastating events in recent world history” and that “these images were poignant and linked strongly to the mood of [the] programme that night which was very much Japan-focused on the devastation, the people and the growing fear of a nuclear fallout”. The broadcaster maintained that these images were not new but were images that viewers had already seen, in some cases many times.

[6]  TVWorks concluded that the images did not breach Standard 1 and declined to uphold the complaint.

Referral to the Authority

[7]  Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Mr Young referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He emphasised that his concern was the use of the footage “for artistic purposes” so soon after the event, and considered that “this practice of seeking to enhance grave news reports by the addition of extraneous musical material is a very offensive trend”.

Authority’s Determination

[8]  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.

[9]  When we consider an alleged breach of good taste and decency, we take into account the context of the broadcast. On this occasion, the relevant contextual factors include:

  • Campbell Live was broadcast at 7pm during the PGR time-band
  • it was an unclassified current affairs programme
  • the programme’s adult target audience
  • the images of the earthquake and tsunami had already been widely publicised.

[10]  On this occasion, we note that Japan’s earthquake and tsunami were a significant news event, which had been covered extensively in the media. It is common practice in visual media to assemble the most poignant images from such an event into a montage, and accompany them with music. We consider that on this occasion the montage was respectful towards, and was intended to be a tribute to, those who experienced the disaster and the devastation caused. In our view, the music selected to accompany the images was appropriate. It did not glorify, or detract from the devastation in Japan, but rather reflected the sombre mood associated with the disaster.

[11]  Taking into account the above contextual factors, particularly that the images appeared in an unclassified current affairs programme targeted at adults, we find that the inclusion of the montage in Campbell Live did not breach Standard 1. We therefore decline to uphold the complaint.


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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Peter Radich
8 July 2011


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

1                  Peter Young’s formal complaint – 28 March 2011

2                 TVWorks’ response to the complaint – 11 April 2011

3                 Mr Young’s referral to the Authority – 13 April 2011

4                 TVWorks’ response to the Authority – 13 May 2011