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New Zealand: Sky TV fined for airing Christchurch footage

Louisa Wright
August 20, 2019

Sky TV NZ has been fined for showing footage from the alleged Christchurch attacker's livestream. The broadcasting authority found it had the potential to cause significant distress to the public.

Flowers near the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch
Image: picture-alliance/AA/P. Adones

Sky TV New Zealand has been fined for airing a number of clips from the alleged Christchurch attacker's livestream video while it was covering the deadly shootings at two mosques in March.

New Zealand's Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) said it had decided to fine Sky News NZ $4,000 (€2,316, $2,567) for its coverage of the March 15 attacks, which left 51 people dead and many others injured.

The BSA found that "while the broadcast as a whole was newsworthy and had a high level of public interest, the clips themselves contained disturbing violent content."

This footage "had the potential to cause significant distress to members of the public, and particularly to the family and friends of victims and the wider Muslim community in New Zealand," the BSA said.

Potential harm greater than public interest

The BSA also concluded that the clips risked glorifying the suspected attacker and promoting his messages.

"The degree of potential harm that could be caused to audiences was greater than the level of public interest," the BSA said, adding that it had found overall that the clips should not have been aired.

The footage was a retransmission of a 24-hour feed from Sky News Australia, which is a separate company from pay TV platform Sky New Zealand.

A day after the attack, Sky New Zealand said on Twitter it had removed the Australian 24-hour news channel from its platform because of the distressing footage.

Four days after the massacre, New Zealand's chief censor classified the Christchurch shooting clip as "objectionable," meaning its broadcast or sharing is now illegal.

Three further complaints relating to other broadcasters' coverage in which a "very brief excerpt" from the livestream was screened as well as footage of identifiable victims as they were taken into hospital were not upheld.

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