New Zealand’s Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) has fined Sky Network Television NZ $4,000 NZD($3,783 AUD) for airing excerpts of the Christchurch massacre Facebook live stream.
The broadcasting watchdog ruled Sky had ultimately caused more harm through its decision to play the shocking footage.
“The Authority upheld one complaint about coverage of the attacks on 15 March, finding that the use of extensive excerpts from the alleged attacker’s live stream video on Sky News New Zealand had the potential to cause significant distress to audiences in New Zealand, and particularly to the family and friends of victims, and the wider Muslim community,” BSA said in its ruling.
The authority did not penalise the 1 News network which played a brief excerpt of the footage, concluding “the unprecedented circumstances and the high level of public interest in the coverage” served as justification for the broadcast.
The Sky NZ broadcast had been taking material from the Sky Australia broadcast, although the two broadcasters operate separately.
In its ruling, BSA revealed Sky NZ had opted to switch the broadcast to the Australian coverage as to not disrupt the local legal process.
“It therefore appears that the primary motivation for the swapped feed was to ensure the legal process in New Zealand was not compromised, rather than any consideration of the harm that could be caused to audiences or the ethical obligations that applied to SKY NZ,” BSA said.
“While SKY NZ contacted other news broadcasters following the classification of the video footage as objectionable, there is no indication from SKY NZ’s submissions that the potential harm to audiences was a factor for this decision.”
While acknowledging the difficulty of the situation, BSA concluded “more needed to be done to mitigate the potential for harm” by Sky NZ.
The decision to fine the broadcaster is in contrast with the Australian Communications and Media Authority’s (ACMA) call to clear local broadcasters of any wrongdoing over the incident.
“The ACMA has not considered the effect or harm caused by this content in New Zealand, as we have done in our determination of this complaint,” BSA said.