Shortland Street quake show should have carried a warning, say traumatised viewers

Last updated 14:27 04/05/2017

Shortland Street's Wednesday night cliffhanger showed an earthquake hitting Ferndale.

Shortland Street actor Grant Lobban, who plays IT guy Damo Johnson, hides beneath a table as an earthquake hits Ferndale. In real life, Lobban lived in Christchurch when the 2011 quake hit.
The Shortland Street earthquake struck at the end of the show.

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Viewers are saying TVNZ should have screened a warning before Wednesday night's Shortland Street which showed a large scale earthquake.

It was just a television show, but it sent people into cold sweats as anxiety took hold fuelled by memories of devastating New Zealand earthquakes.

Shortland Street ended the show, as it often does, with a cliffhanger, but what preceded it was unexpected, both for the characters and viewers. The earthquake struck on screen with no warning, the camera started shaking and so too did viewers still traumatised by real earthquakes such as the 2011 Canterbury earthquake that killed 185 people.

Viewers caught out by the show spoke about the scene bringing back frightening emotions and memories, even though they knew it wasn't real.

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Christchurch resident Korrina Kenny was there when the 2011 quake hit. It was her mother's birthday and they were standing in the kitchen when everything started to shake just after lunch.

"All of a sudden it happened. Shaking like mad. And me screaming at my mum. We've been down hill since then, like everyone else," she said.

When the shaking started on television, Kenny said it brought back all those feelings. She was screaming at her mum again, "I freaked out and yelled out to my mum. It felt so real like my heart stopped and cold shivers went down my back," she said.

Kenny, and others spoken to by Stuff – some of whom asked not to be named because of negative comments directed at those who expressed their concerns on Shortland Street's Facebook page – said TVNZ should have warned them what was going to be on the show.

Because there was no warning, Kenny said she let her children watch the show. They didn't react well, she said her girls thought it was real. Kenny's mother stayed by her girls' side Wednesday night as they tried to get to sleep.

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The Broadcasting Standards Authority said television stations were required to screen warnings if content was likely to cause distress.

"A broadcaster should use an appropriate audience advisory (i.e. a warning) if a programme is likely to disturb, distress or offend a significant number of viewers," a statement from the authority said.

Broadcasters were bound to "issue an audience advisory where the content of a broadcast may not be suitable for likely viewers" as part of their programme information standard.

A TVNZ spokeswoman said Thursday night's episode of Shortland Street would carry a warning.

"Since it screened last night, a number of viewers have let us know it was a difficult scene for them to watch without any warning," she said.

The spokeswoman said she TVNZ understood many viewers would have been upset by the broadcast.

"Shortland Street regularly draws on dramatic real life situations for its plotlines. We didn't advise viewers in advance about the tremor that was part of last night's episode, an experience many New Zealanders have lived through across the country in recent times," she said.

- Stuff


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