Doco censorship called an 'affront to democracy'

Wednesday 18 Jan 2012 8:05 a.m.

Bryan Bruce

Bryan Bruce

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A documentary maker is outraged that NZ On Air is considering banning some television programmes in the weeks before an election.

Bryan Bruce's documentary Inside Child Poverty: A Special Report screened four days before last November's polling day, raising concerns it was too politicised and could sway election results.

NZ On Air, which provided funding of $105,400 towards the programme, has taken legal advice as to whether it can add a "covenant requiring broadcasters not to screen programmes likely to be an election issue" ahead of election day.

The revelation was in material released under the Official Information Act to the Scoop news website.

NZ On Air board chairman Neil Walter is standing by the move, saying while the broadcasting funding agency was happy to fund controversial programmes, it could not be seen to be supporting some political views over others at the risk of influencing voting.

But commentators, including media law experts, have labelled the step "heavy-handed".

Mr Bruce himself told Radio New Zealand on Wednesday he was outraged the body would consider such a move.

He argued his programme had been both relevant and important and was politically unbiased.

Steps to censor such a documentary would be a "dangerous" affront on democracy, he said.

NZN

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