New Zealand News Show Wins High Court Appeal Over Use of F-Word

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TVNZ has won a High Court appeal over the use of the f-word in one of it's New Zealand news programmes following an accusation that it breached broadcasting standards. The word was used to recount an actual verbal exchange between a gunman and the policeman who shot him dead.

New Zealand News: Aramoana gunman David Gray

New Zealand News: Aramoana gunman David Gray

This is an important win for media freedom and the right of the New Zealand public to hear an accurate and complete record of such a significant event

TVNZ, the state-owned New Zealand news broadcaster, says its successful High Court appeal against a decision by the Broadcasting Standards Authority is an important win for media freedom.

The High Court decision overturned the BSA’s ruling in April (2011-01 [2011] NZBSA 50) that the use of the F-word in TV ONE’s Sunday news and current affairs programme on Aramoana breached broadcasting standards.

Justice Simon France described the BSA’s decision as “plainly wrong,” and said it “does a disservice to the programme to isolate this word.”

TVNZ successfully argued that viewers had a right to hear the exact exchange that took place between the Aramoana gunman David Gray and the policeman who shot him dead.

John Gillespie, TVNZ’s Editor Current Affairs, says of the news: “This is an important win for media freedom and the right of the New Zealand public to hear an accurate and complete record of such a significant event in our history.

“The Sunday programme aired on the 20th anniversary of the massacre and revealed details of the final confrontation between Police and David Gray, information never before made public. Much thought and scrutiny went into how Sunday would reveal those details. The judge vigorously backed up that scrutiny in his decision.

“We’re not arguing to relax the rules around strong language on TV. Context is all important. Our story accurately recounted an important historical event, which is surely our public duty as journalists. This case was an obvious exception to the general rule, and the judge agreed.

“It is very heartening to see a very quick, commonsense and clear decision from the Court,” he says.

TVNZ is New Zealand's leading TV broadcaster. Sunday is one of TVNZ's NZ news programmes providing weekly in-depth news reviews of events within the country.

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Georgie Hills
TVNZ
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