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High Court bullying tactics against viewer org


TVNZ uses High Court bullying tactics against viewer organisation

The TV viewer’s organisation VoTE says TVNZ is using the High Court as a bullying tactic in an attempt to shut down legitimate complaints against it.

Viewers for Television Excellence took a complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Association over an item on the 6pm TV One News on Saturday 5th July 2003. In the bulletin, an item was screened showing the (so-called) Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda. It reported that as many as 20, 000 children had been kidnapped over a period of 17 years and had been tortured, mutilated, raped or forced to kill.

During this item some of the children who had been badly treated in these ways were shown, including horrific shots of a girl whose face had been brutally mutilated when she had refused to do as the soldiers had demanded. Other children spoke of how they had been forced to kill and do dreadful things to others.

VoTE secretary Glenyss Barker says she was appalled at the item, particularly because it was aired during a time when children are usually watching. She says children respond to other children, and she believes they could not have failed to be upset by the images.

She says she was incensed that the item occurred before the 8.30pm watershed, when TVNZ is meant to show only what is acceptable for children.

After her complaint to TVNZ was turned down, Glenyss Barker went to the Broadcasting Standards Association, which upheld the complaint (although no penalty was imposed on TVNZ).

TVNZ has now appealed the decision to the High Court, and has named VoTE as the respondent.

“It is totally bizarre that any New Zealander who makes a complaint under the legal framework of the Broadcasting Act can be dragged into a High Court Case in this way,” Mrs Barker says.

“TVNZ has almost unlimited funds while VoTE has very little – this is classic bullying tactics to shut down opposition. It’s a real David and Goliath case.”

Mrs Barker says despite limited funds, VoTE has decided to fight TVNZ, to preserve the ability of individuals to exercise their democratic right to complain without fear of being dragged into costly court battles.

“If not, TVNZ will have carte blanche to broadcast any violent, sexual or blasphemous rubbish they wish and there will be no safe-guards.”

Mrs Barker says that world-wide research has established a strong connection between media violence and violence in society. There is a real danger New Zealand will continue to become a more violent country as the impact of violence on TV continues to influence young minds and impressionable people.

The first stage in the High Court case will be a procedural hearing on February 10, and VoTE is making a public appeal to raise funds for the case.

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