'Disturbing' message insufficient for mall footage

MICHAEL DALY
Last updated 17:09 07/04/2014
Westgate shopping mall
DISTURBING FOOTAGE: A gunman aims his rifle inside a store during an attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Kenya in October last year.

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Advice that a television news item had "disturbing images" has been ruled an insufficient warning for footage showing a man being shot at point-blank range.

The footage of the man trying to hide and then being shot during the Kenyan mall massacre was broadcast in October on TV3's 3 News, which screens at 6pm.

In a decision published today, the Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) said a warning of "disturbing images" would cover the scenes of people running through the mall and away from the gunmen.

It did not adequately prepare viewers to see a man attempting to hide, then being discovered by one of the gunmen and shot in cold blood, at close range, the BSA decision said.

The warning needed to be more specific and convey to viewers that they would be witnessing a graphic killing. As the item was shown in the 6pm news the need for a warning was greater to help parental supervision.

The man was not seen explicitly being shot as his head and part of his body were hidden behind a counter. Nor were any blood or wounds seen, but viewers did see the man's legs and body convulse as the bullet hit.

"This was horrific, highly disturbing content, and we think that many viewers would have been very upset given they were not prepared for it," the BSA said.

The footage was shown only 30 seconds into the item.

"The inadequate warning, combined with the proximity of the warning to the footage, meant that viewers were not given a reasonable opportunity to exercise discretion with regard to their children's viewing, or to make a different viewing choice themselves."

The BSA upheld a complaint from viewer Elizabeth Warwick that the good taste and decency, children's interests and violence broadcasting standards were breached.

But it also said the footage was important to illustrate the horror of the events.

"There was very high public interest in this report, and high value in terms of free speech. We should not be shielded from such events, which unfortunately do take place," the BSA said.

TV3's owner, TV Works, said children were unlikely to have been watching the item unsupervised, and it considered the warning was sufficient for viewers to make an alternative viewing choice.

The BSA did not make any order as it said the decision would give sufficient guidance to broadcasters around showing graphic content in news items.

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