New Zealand Law Society - BSA upholds complaint on use of livestream of mosque attacks

BSA upholds complaint on use of livestream of mosque attacks

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The Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) has upheld a complaint about the use of excerpts by a television station from the alleged attacker in the Christchurch mosque attacks.

Sky News New Zealand broadcast a number of edited clips taken from the 17‑minute livestream video on the day, 15 March.

The Authority has found that the use of these excerpts had the potential to cause “significant distress” to audiences in New Zealand, particularly to the family and friends of victims, and the wider Muslim community.

While the Authority acknowledged SKY NZ’s limited editorial control over the programme, as it is a foreign pass-through news channel that is broadcast in New Zealand on SKY NZ’s pay television platform, it found that the clips as broadcast were highly disturbing and should not have been aired.

“We do not consider that due care or discretion was exercised with respect to the disturbing violent content contained in the clips,” the decision notes.

“We have found that showing the clips from the alleged attacker’s livestream footage had the potential to further the alleged attacker’s propaganda purposes of glorifying his own actions and inciting or encouraging violence. In our view the broadcaster should have been more cognisant of this risk and taken appropriate action to take this content off air, or to engage with Sky News Australia to remove disturbing content from the feed.”

The BSA ordered SKY NZ to pay $4,000 in costs to the Crown and noted its intention to engage with broadcasters to determine whether broadcasting standards provide adequate guidance in these situations.

The BSA also dealt with three other complaints related to coverage of the attacks by 1 News, which featured a brief excerpt from the livestream video and footage of identifiable victims, some with visible injuries, as they were being taken into hospital.

“Taking into account the unprecedented circumstances and the high level of public interest in the coverage, the Authority did not uphold the complaints about 1 News,” the BSA says.

The BSA says it acknowledges the critical role media play in reporting during crisis events and the unprecedented circumstances facing New Zealand broadcasters at this time.

“There was high value and public interest in keeping the public informed about these events as they unfolded,” Authority Chair, Judge Bill Hastings, says.

“Following the attacks, broadcasters needed to balance their duty to provide sufficient information and detail to the public, while also avoiding harm to viewers. This weighing exercise took place during unprecedented and challenging circumstances, as events unfolded and as new information came to hand.”

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