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TV viewer organisation wins High Court challenge

TV viewer organisation wins High Court challenge by TVNZ

The High Court has turned down a challenge by TVNZ against the viewer organisation VoTE regarding a violent item on TV One’s 6pm news.

VoTE complained that the item on 5 July 2003 was disturbing to children, and should not have been shown without a warning.

The item showed children caught up in civil war in Uganda. It talked about crippling injuries inflicted on children, the rape of girls captured by rebels, showed a girl’s mutilated face, and portrayed a boy giving a graphic account about how he had been required by the rebels to kill.

VoTE’s complaint was upheld by the Broadcasting Standards Authority, but TVNZ appealed to the High Court on the grounds that decision did not represent a balancing of the restrictions contained in the Broadcasting Standards Act against the right to freedom of expression contained in the Bill of Rights Act.

The BSA panel was divided, but upheld the complaint on the casting vote of the chairman.

VoTE secretary Glenyss Barker says that during children’s viewing times, broadcasters are required to consider the interests of children, particularly showing scenes which might disturb them. If necessary, items should be rescheduled till later in the evening.

In his decision, Justice Wild said that even if the requirement to warn viewers of a violent news item is perceived to be an infringement of the right to free expression, it is, in this instance, a justified infringement.

“The objective of the warning, namely, to protect young viewers from unduly distressing images, is sufficiently important to warrant such a measure.”

VoTE secretary Glenyss Barker says TVNZ was effectively asking for the right to broadcast whatever it like without considering the effect it might have on young people, and she is pleased that the Court is not prepared to allow that.


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