TV3 cleared over calling Stewart Murray the 'beast of Blenheim'

Last updated 13:14 05/02/2013

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TV3 has been cleared over calling convicted sex offender Stewart Murray Wilson "the beast of Blenheim" on news bulletins.

Richard McKay, of Auckland, complained to the Broadcasting Standards Authority about the use of the phrase during bulletins reporting Wilson's release from prison on TV3's 3 News and Nightline in September.

The complaint was considered by a four-member panel including authority chairman Peter Radich, of Blenheim.

Releasing its decision on the complaint, the authority said the label had been assigned to Wilson and the nature of his crimes many years ago and had been used extensively throughout the media.

"It has become a well-known nickname and the broadcaster cannot be held responsible for its continued use," the authority said.

Wilson was released after 18 years in prison for more than 20 sex offences against women and children over a 20-year period.

Mr McKay said use of the label "the beast" dehumanised and stigmatised Wilson and was a deliberate attempt to incite "public hostility and animosity" against him and other prisoners.

He argued that the continued use, even though Wilson had served his prison sentence, was degrading and "purposefully designed to cause hurt, injury and harm to Mr Wilson [and his kind]".

Network owner TVWorks said it understood the sentiment behind the complaint, but believed the news items were objective and contextualised the nickname by ensuring it featured "subordinately" alongside Wilson's real name.

The authority said the label had been used only once in each item and that Wilson was also referred to by his legal name.

Further, Wilson's position was clearly stated in the 3 News item when the reporter read out excerpts from a letter in which he expressed his view that he had "paid the penalty imposed by society" and wanted to get on with his life.

Mr McKay also alleged breaches of standards of good taste and decency, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, privacy, accuracy, responsible programming and children's interests. None of those were upheld. FAIRFAX NZ

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- The Marlborough Express

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