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Rose and TVWorks Ltd - 2007-104

Members

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Paul France
  • Tapu Misa
  • Diane Musgrave

Complainant

  • Pete Rose of Wellington

Dated

4th December 2007

Number

2007-104

Programme

Nightline

Channel/Station

TV3

Broadcaster

TVWorks Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Nightline – report on public’s reaction to a Campbell Live item involving a "self-confessed cat hater" and his method of killing cats – item included a demonstration by Mr Spring showing how he would lower a cage containing a cat into a barrel of water – allegedly in breach of law and order standards

The Authority’s Decision
Standard 2 (law and order) – item made it clear to viewers that Mr Spring’s actions were illegal – viewers were not encouraged to break the law – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1]   An item on Nightline, broadcast at 10.30pm on 29 August 2007, reported on a story broadcast on TV3’s Campbell Live the previous night featuring Ray Spring, a "self-confessed cat hater" from Christchurch. During the Campbell Live item, Mr Spring explained that he was trapping and then drowning cats, as he believed that they were out-of-control pests. While no footage was shown of Mr Spring either trapping or drowning any cats, footage was shown of Mr Spring lowering a cage into an empty barrel to demonstrate how he would drown a cat.

[2]   The Nightline item focused on the public’s outraged response to the story and included interviews with representatives from the Cats’ Protection League and the SPCA. The reporter explained that drowning cats was illegal, and was punishable by up to three years in prison or a $50,000 fine. The SPCA representative stated that Mr Spring’s actions were unacceptable.

Complaint

[3]   Pete Rose made a formal complaint to TVWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the footage of Mr Spring demonstrating how he drowned cats had breached the law and order standard.

[4]   The complainant pointed out that drowning a cat was an illegal act and he believed that the item had depicted a technique for committing a crime that invited imitation. Referring to the law and order guidelines, Mr Rose maintained that the footage depicted an ingenious device for, or unfamiliar method of, inflicting death and that this method was readily capable of easy imitation.

Standards

[5]   TVWorks assessed the complaint under Standard 2 and guidelines 2b, 2c and 2d of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. These provide:

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.

Guidelines

2b.   Factual programmes should not glamorise criminal activity or condone the actions of criminals.

2c.   Programmes should not depict or describe techniques of crime in a manner which invites imitation.

2d.   Ingenious devices for, and unfamiliar methods of, inflicting pain, injury or death, particularly if readily capable of easy imitation, should not be shown, except in exceptional circumstances which are in the publi interest.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Complainant

[6]  TVWorks argued that the item did not encourage viewers to break the law and that no criminal activity was shown. It maintained that while Mr Spring was faithfully portrayed as the "cat hater" he claimed to be, the Nightline item could not be regarded as either inviting imitation, or depicting an ingenious device or method of inflicting pain, as contemplated by the law and order guidelines.

[7]  The broadcaster maintained that the item had made it clear to viewers that Mr Spring’s actions were illegal and punishable by imprisonment and/or a fine. It also pointed out that during the course of the item, it was reported that the SPCA said it would be investigating the actions of Mr Spring.

[8]  TVWorks believed that the story had clearly demonstrated the unacceptable nature of Mr Spring’s conduct. It declined to uphold the law and order complaint.

Referral to the Authority

[9]  Dissatisfied with TVWorks’ decision, Mr Rose referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He reiterated the arguments put forward in his original complaint.

Authority's Determination

[10]  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 2 (law and order)

[11]  The Authority has stated on previous occasions (e.g. Decision No. 2005-133) that the intent behind the law and order standard is to prevent broadcasts that encourage viewers to break the law or otherwise promote, condone or glamorise criminal activity.

[12]  While the item did show Mr Spring demonstrating how he would lower a cage containing a cat into a barrel of water, it is the Authority’s view that the item did not encourage viewers to break the law, or promote, condone or glamorise Mr Spring’s actions. In fact, the item focused on the mostly outraged reaction of viewers, and the SPCA, all of whom considered that Mr Spring’s actions were completely unacceptable. Further, the reporter made it clear to viewers that Mr Spring’s actions were illegal and punishable by a term of imprisonment and/or a fine.

[13]  In these circumstances, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint that the item breached the law and order standard.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
4 December 2007

Appendix

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

1.            Pete Rose’s formal complaint – 5 September 2007
2.           TVWorks’ response to the formal complaint – 4 October 2007
3.           Mr Rose’s referral to the Authority – 5 October 2007
4.           TVWorks’ response to the Authority – 16 October 2007