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RNZ’s programming change not in breach of standards

19 July 2019

BSA finds RNZ’s programming change following 15 March mosque attacks not in breach of broadcasting standards

The Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) has found that RNZ’s programming change on the morning of 17 March 2019, following the 15 March 2019 mosque attacks in Christchurch, did not breach broadcasting standards.

RNZ National replaced the usual Sunday morning Children’s Storytime with four excerpts from a 2017 podcast series Public Enemy, which investigates what it means to grow up Muslim in a post 9/11 world. The programme contained themes of high public interest in light of the recent attacks on two Mosques in Christchurch. It also contained content that may have disturbed some children.

Generally, programme selection and scheduling decisions are at the discretion of the broadcaster. The BSA can only consider complaints about programme scheduling where it is alleged that the replacement programme breaches broadcasting standards, such as the classification requirements or the children’s interests standard.

In this case, the BSA acknowledged that the usual programming for this time meant that listeners, especially children, could have tuned in expecting to hear Children’s Storytime. Audience expectations, and whether sufficient information has been provided to audiences about a programme, are important contextual factors for the BSA when considering complaints under the children’s interests standard.

However, the Authority recognised that the public interest in the attacks and issues connected with it at the time was high, saying:

“There is high value and legitimate public interest in feature journalism pieces such as this. In the context of events in New Zealand at the time of broadcast, this one-off broadcast provided contextual information to the March mosque attacks. It was a timely expression in light of the events, which placed unprecedented demands on the New Zealand media to provide in-depth and informative coverage.”

The Authority found that, in the circumstances, the broadcaster provided sufficient information to listeners of the programming change, broadcasting a number of advisory statements about the nature of the programme.

“[P]arents and caregivers would have been aware that media content at such a time was likely to have a strong focus on the events and related issues… parents and caregivers also share responsibility for protecting children when managing media content. We consider overall that the audience was adequately informed about the contents of this programme…” the Authority said.

ENDS

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