Warning: This decision contains content that some readers may find distressing.
During coverage of the 15 March 2019 attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, SKY Network Television channel 085, Sky News New Zealand, included a number of edited clips taken from the alleged attacker’s 17‑minute livestream video. The Authority upheld a complaint that the broadcast was in breach of the violence and law and order standards. While the broadcast as a whole was newsworthy and had a high level of public interest, the clips themselves contained disturbing violent content, which had the potential to cause significant distress to members of the public, and particularly to the family and friends of victims and the wider Muslim community in New Zealand. In the context of the attacks, the content of these clips also risked glorifying the alleged attacker and promoting his messages. As such, the degree of potential harm that could be caused to audiences was greater than the level of public interest, and the Authority found overall that these clips, in the form broadcast, should not have been aired.
Upheld: Violence, Law and Order; Declined Jurisdiction: Balance, Accuracy, Fairness
Order: Section 16(4) – $4,000 in costs to the Crown
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that statements made during Uncharted with Sam Neill were inaccurate. A complaint was made that host Sam Neill and an interviewee during the programme implied that missionaries primarily came to New Zealand for the purpose of acquiring land, which was misleading and misrepresented their good work. The Authority considered that the programme was clearly framed from the outset as a chance for untold or unexplored stories and perspectives to be expressed. In these circumstances, the Authority found that the statements complained about were clearly distinguishable as analysis, comment or opinion and were therefore not subject to the requirements of the accuracy standard. The Authority’s intervention in upholding the complaint would therefore represent an unreasonable and unjustified limit on the right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that an episode of children’s cartoon Shimmer and Shine breached broadcasting standards by promoting gambling to children. The episode focused on the main character’s quest to win tickets in an arcade with the help of her genies so she could get the prize she wanted. The Authority acknowledged there are similarities between arcade games and casinos and acknowledged the complainant’s concerns about the episode in this respect. However the young target audience were unlikely to make that connection, reducing the likelihood of real harm being caused by the programme. The Authority therefore found any restriction on the right to freedom of expression would be unjustified.
Not Upheld: Children’s Interests, Fairness
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that a story on Prime News, reporting on incorrect deductions that were made from a solo mother’s benefit, was inaccurate and resulted in Work and Income New Zealand (WINZ) being treated unfairly. The featured mother was repaid $7,000 from WINZ after discovering that deductions had been made from her benefit in error, as she qualified for an exemption from a policy requiring her to identify the father of her child. The Authority considered that the item was a fair and accurate report on the issue. WINZ was the agency responsible for administering the woman’s benefit and for making the deductions under legislation. It was therefore reasonable for the broadcaster to refer to WINZ and to rely on comment from the Minister for Social Development in response. While the story may have been critical of the policy and of the incorrect deductions that were made, the Authority considered that upholding this complaint would represent an unreasonable and unjustified limit on the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression, and therefore did not uphold the complaint.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness
A campaign advertisement for the Ban 1080 Party (an election programme for the purposes of the Election Programmes Code) was broadcast at 5.20pm on 9 September 2017 on Prime, during a G-classified fishing programme, Addicted to Fishing. The advertisement featured a voiceover discussing the purported use and effects of sodium fluoroacetate (1080 poison) on New Zealand’s fauna, in particular deer. The advertisement included a number of close-up images of dead deer allegedly poisoned by 1080, some of which appeared to be frothing at the mouth. A complaint was made that the broadcast of these images at a time when children may be watching was upsetting and inappropriate, in breach of the good taste and decency standard (which applies under Standard E1 of the Election Programmes Code). The Authority did not uphold the complaint, finding that, while the images may be confronting for some viewers, they related to Ban 1080’s main political policy message, and in the context the high threshold necessary to find a breach of the good taste and decency standard was not met. The Authority emphasised the importance and value of political expression, particularly in the lead up to a general election.
Not Upheld: Election Programmes Subject to Other Codes, Good Taste and Decency
Peter Popoff Ministries is a religious programme hosted by controversial televangelist, Peter Popoff. This programme featured Popoff and his wife preaching and allegedly healing audience members, as well as testimonies from various attendees about miracles and financial rewards received from God after they bought Popoff’s ‘Miracle Spring Water’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the programme was ‘fraudulent’, as it took advantage of viewers who may be misled by the programme into losing money. The Authority acknowledged the complainant’s genuine and well‑intentioned concerns. However, it found that the accuracy standard did not apply to religious programming, such as Peter Popoff’s Ministries, and programme selection and scheduling decisions fell to the responsible broadcaster to determine.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
The music videos for ‘Starboy’ by The Weeknd and ‘Sexual’ by Neiked were screened between 9pm and 10pm on MTV’s Top 20 Hits. The introduction to the music video for ‘Starboy’ featured singer The Weeknd being suffocated to death with a plastic bag. The music video for ‘Sexual’ featured a variety of animated sexual imagery, including animals having sex and a girl lifting her shirt to expose her breasts. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that these videos were offensive and disturbing. It recognised that the content was challenging and understood the complainant’s concerns regarding the graphic content of such music videos and their impact on young audiences. However, the videos were classified 16C and broadcast between 9pm and 10pm on a Sunday evening, and the programme featured an audience advisory for content. Taking into account these contextual factors, the Authority found that the broadcaster took effective steps to inform viewers of the programme’s likely content, so they could make an informed viewing choice. Given the classification of the broadcast, the violent and sexual content would not be outside audience expectations for the music videos featured.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Children’s Interests, Violence
Promos for 60 Minutes, The Brokenwood Mysteries, Poldark and 11.22.63 were broadcast on Prime, during an unclassified All Blacks rugby match against Ireland. The Authority did not uphold a complaint alleging that it was inappropriate to broadcast promos for PGR and AO programmes during G-rated host programmes. The Authority noted that the All Blacks match was unclassified, meaning any promos needed to be classified either G or PGR to comply with broadcasting standards. While the promos featured or alluded to adult themes, the depiction of those themes was consistent with the G classification. The promos were unlikely to disturb or offend viewers, including any child viewers who were watching the rugby.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency
An episode of a documentary series Shocking Lives, titled The Grandmother Lovers, explored relationships between younger men and older women. It contained sexual content and nudity. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the documentary breached the good taste and decency standard. The documentary did not contain overly explicit or graphic material. Sexual activity was largely implied, and the programme featured only limited nudity. The broadcaster took sufficient steps to inform viewers about the content of the programme, which was classified AO, broadcast at 9.30pm and preceded by a warning for sexual content and nudity. The documentary focused on relationships between consenting adults and in the context of the broadcast this did not undermine general community standards of good taste and decency.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency
During an episode of The Crowd Goes Wild, the hosts discussed the results of the US Masters golf tournament. Host Mark Richardson, referring to English golfer Danny Willett (who ultimately won the tournament), commented in relation to footage of Mr Willett playing a hole, ‘you’re leading the Masters – how’re you going to handle this, you pommy git? Right, so pretty well then, old chap I see’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the phrase ‘pommy git’ was openly racist and derogatory. The hosts of The Crowd Goes Wild are known for their style of presentation and humour, which is often irreverent and ‘tongue-in-cheek’. The comments were not ‘nasty’ or ‘derogatory’ and were not intended to reflect negatively on English people generally. In these circumstances, the use of the term ‘pommy git’ did not threaten current norms of good taste and decency and did not reach the high threshold for encouraging the denigration of, or discrimination against, all English people as a section of the community.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Discrimination and Denigration
A Prime News item reported on the trial of a former Nazi guard at Auschwitz and referred to the camp as a ‘Polish camp’. The complainant alleged this statement was inaccurate because it was not a ‘Polish camp’, but was rather a Nazi camp located in Poland. The Authority recognised that the labelling of concentration camps as part of the Nazi regime remains a sensitive issue and one of historical importance, which broadcasters should be mindful of when choosing the language to be used. Nevertheless, in the context of the item the Authority did not consider that viewers would have been misled.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness
A Prime News item reported on the Conservative Party Annual General Meeting, which was the subject of a police call-out because a former Board member attempted to attend the meeting and was issued a trespass notice. The Authority did not uphold a complaint alleging that the item lacked balance, was inaccurate and was unfair to the Conservative Party and its former leader Colin Craig. The item was a straightforward news report that was not unfair to the Conservative Party or Colin Craig, who as a public figure should expect to be subject to some criticism and scrutiny. The item did not discuss a controversial issue of public importance that required the presentation of other views and was not inaccurate.
Not Upheld: Controversial Issues, Accuracy, Fairness
The Five on Fox News featured a panel discussion about the closing of the prison at Guantánamo Bay. One of the panellists twice commented that a solution for the remaining Guantánamo Bay inmates would be to ‘kill them all’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint alleging the comment incited mass murder. The comment did not amount to promotion of serious illegal activity to a New Zealand audience, and in the context of the discussion and the nature of the programme and channel it was unlikely to be taken literally by reasonable viewers.
Not Upheld: Law and Order
An episode of Bullies, a three-part documentary series, discussed the issue of bullying in schools. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the documentary was unbalanced and misleading because it did not discuss the success of certain nationwide bullying prevention programmes. The documentary did discuss various anti-bullying programmes and was not otherwise misleading. Which anti-bullying initiatives to feature, and in what detail, was a matter of editorial discretion for the broadcaster.
Not Upheld: Controversial Issues, Accuracy
A story on 60 Minutes featured tragic driveway accidents involving children. Part of the story focused on the death of an 18-month-old boy, and the subsequent struggles of his mother. The mother also discussed her other son, S, and photos and footage were shown of him. The Authority upheld a complaint from S’s father that the programmes breached S’s privacy. S was identifiable by name and image, he was linked with details of his mother’s drug addiction and prostitution which constituted private facts and this disclosure was highly offensive. In the circumstances the broadcaster’s primary concern ought to have been the best interests of the child, regardless of any consent obtained. The Authority recognised the value and public interest in the story but this was outweighed by the need to protect the child.
Order: Section 13(1)(d) $1,500 compensation for breach of privacy
The music video for Nicki Minaj’s song ‘Only’ was broadcast on MTV at 6.50pm, in a segment classified MC. The Authority upheld the complaint that the numerous expletives and sexual references in the video were distasteful and unsuitable for uncensored broadcast at a time when younger viewers were watching. The video was incorrectly classified MC when it should have been 16LC and the explicit adult content exceeded audience expectations of the MC classification. The incorrect classification also meant that filtering technology would not have been as effective in preventing children from viewing the video as it should have been.
Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Children
Order: Section 16(4) – $1,500 costs to the Crown
Voice of Islam broadcast a speech by a prominent Muslim speaker, in which she discussed the teachings of Islam. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the programme amounted to ‘hate speech’ and incited violence. The speech clearly comprised the speaker’s own interpretation of the teachings of the Qur’an, and did not contain anything which threatened broadcasting standards.
The E! channel featured an ‘Entertainment Special’ entitled The Real 50 Shades of Grey about couples who engage in BDSM (Bondage/ Discipline/ Dominance/ Submission/ Sadism/ Masochism). The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the programme encouraged sexual violence and normalised BDSM practice. The content was discussed only in fairly innocuous terms and no explicitly sexual or violent material was shown. However, the Authority upheld the complaint that the programme should have included warning labels for sexual and other potentially offensive content, as the subject matter had the potential to offend viewers.
Upheld: Content Classification, Warning and Filtering
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Violence
An episode of the murder mystery series Midsomer Murders depicted several murders, including a man being shot with a bow and arrow and a woman being shot with a gun. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that the murder scenes showed realistic violence likely to disturb children. The murder scenes were relatively innocuous in context and did not exceed the programme’s PGR classification.
Not Upheld: Responsible Programming, Children’s Interests
An episode of The Brokenwood Mysteries portrayed a character believed to have Asperger Syndrome as a lead suspect in a murder. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that the broadcast denigrated people with Asperger Syndrome. The programme legitimately employed dramatic licence to develop this fictional character, and the character was not intended as a comment on, or a reflection of, all people with Asperger Syndrome.
Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration, Accuracy, Fairness