Brian Edwards Media

Shameful Journalism From TV One News

busch23011Last night’s TV1 News began with one of the most disgraceful and irresponsible pieces of journalism I have seen in some years.

With no supporting evidence of any sort, Lisa Owen reported a series of ‘serious allegations’ against ‘Lion Man’ Craig Busch, including animal cruelty and putting the lives of Zion Wildlife Gardens workers at risk.

The allegations were based on ‘documents forwarded to TV1 News’ by three employees of the park who ‘want to remain anonymous through fear of retribution’. The three, we were told,  ‘didn’t speak up at the time’ because they were ‘too scared to’.

It strikes me that by choosing to remain  anonymous they are still not speaking up. They were gutless then, and they are gutless now. But this did not deter One News from massively defaming Busch by presenting these untested allegations to TV1 viewers as the lead item in Sunday’s bulletin and in a tone which suggested that Busch had a case to answer.

And the allegations were indeed serious. Busch was accused to having ‘cruelly killed unwanted cubs'; of having used ‘a rock the size of a softball’ to kill one of the cubs, taking ‘three or four blows'; of having ‘beaten two cats with a short wooden handle'; and of having put the lives of Zion staff at risk by getting them to run alongside the big cats.

The item contained several verbatim quotes from park staff. We can’t judge those people’s credibility of course, because we don’t know who they are.

It’s worth remembering that Busch is currently involved in a bitter legal battle in the Employment Court  over his sacking without notice from the lion park and that, following the killing of a keeper by a white tiger which was shot dead during the attack,  he has made some serious criticisms of the running of the park in his absence. He is a man with enemies who have a vested interest in discrediting him. Might those not be the same anonymous complainants to One News? Might that not be a serious consideration for any news editor or reporter intending to put such allegations to air? Apparently not.

A spokesman for Busch did give a statement to One News. It read; ‘These allegations are part of an ongoing campaign of misinformation against the Lion Man. A smear.’

I don’t know whether that is the case or not. Nor do I know whether any of the allegations are true. But neither do One News or Lisa Owen. Yet they put the allegations to air in peak time, as the lead item in the bulletin.

I’m not sure whether that is worse than the media manipulation by Busch’s adversaries  in which One News  allowed itself to be complicit.

As Brooke Howard-Smith would say – Shame on you!

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  1. I share the unease about this story and I am concerned that it seems to be a symptom of a wider decline in TVNZ’s standards. The ‘Sunday’ piece of a couple of weeks ago promoting Gareth Morgan’s book using old footage of a high tide in an atoll was simply an unbalanced disgrace (unlike Gareth’s book). The piece on the alleged mistreatment of pigs was equally shameful. A bunch of simpletons emoting about anthropomorphised nonsense such as pigs being ‘depressed’ was merely a cover for a disaffected frontman (Mike King) to take a pot shot against an industry that refused to renew his contract and give him payola of $50K that he demanded as ‘severance’. TV3 did something similar a few months ago, when it allowed the authors of ‘Target’ to get away with deliberate misinformation during the formaldehyde scare. Some journalists delude themselves that they are an elite and the inferior masses will just swallow whatever they choose to fabricate. Big mistake.

    • I share the unease about this story and I am concerned that it seems to be a symptom of a wider decline in TVNZ’s standards.

      I didn’t see the Sunday story re Gareth Morgan, so can’t comment. Ditto with the Target story.

      I don’t agree with you that pigs are incapable of feeling either happy or depressed. There is lots of research to support that view, not to mention that it’s bloody obvious when you observe their behaviour. You’re entitled to be sceptical about the reasons for Mike King’s epiphany, but you’re wrong about the pigs.

      Your comment has been edited for reasons of defamation.

  2. I diagree. A diagnosis of ‘depression’ on a pig cannot be more than anthropomorphic projection. That is not to say that pigs cannot be in pain, stressed, comfortable, well fed, or hungry. But depressed – no.

    Fo those curious about the editing and the formaldehyde issue, see

    The Importers Institute accused TV3’s Target program of conning the public, knowingly and deliberately, to improve the program’s ratings.

    There was no problem with defamation. The truth, apparently, is a defence.

    • I diagree. A diagnosis of ‘depression’ on a pig cannot be more than anthropomorphic projection.

      Truth is indeed a defence in defamation. Proving it is another matter. I have wide experience of defamation actions. They are hugely expensive to defend and the result is often little better than a lottery. Two of your remarks were defamatory. If I published them, I would be party to the defamation. No thanks.

  3. 3

    Brian Edwards, some thoughtful, intelligent comments; all of which I agree with. Shame on TV1 News!

    • Brian Edwards, some thoughtful, intelligent comments; all of which I agree with. Shame on TV1 News!

      Thanks Sharon

  4. I couldn’t agree more Brian. At last someone has there eyes open. The media often has a lot to answer for and in this case I am disgusted at what was presented on TV One News, in fact it is enough to put me off watching it ever again.

    The tragic death of Dalu at the park recently along with the killing of Abu the tiger has been big news. By presenting the supposed ‘anonymous tip off’s’ that weren’t even tested was just TV One News trying to sensationalise the story a little further.

    The fact that they did this whilst Craig Busch is in the midst of a very drawn out legal battle with the park is unforgivable. One would even be tempted to think that TV One News may be ‘in bed’ with the park. They certainly helped to defame Craig’s name, and who knows what sort of implication that will have on the legal battle.

    Craig has many many supporters, in the last week since the tragic deaths at Zion Wildlife Gardens, his fansite on Facebook has jumped from 7,000 to almost 13,000 and it is still going up daily. I’m not sure what TV One News was trying to do when presenting this story, but one thing they certainly managed to do was potentially lose 13,000 odd viewers. Well done I say!

  5. You ve hit the nail on the head and i dont think it could be said better than that! Inocent till proven guilty right!

  6. On this I have to agree. TVNZ are claiming they have ‘documents’ but where is the concrete proof? Similar allegations were made back in 2007 about Mr Busch’s treatment of cubs and the adult animals in his care but again these were just allegations. TVNZ also reported that 30 lions & tigers were declawed. On this I went to source namely MAF and obtained the actual report from February 2009. This is concrete fact but to attack Mr Busch concerning abuse without any proof – on this I say shame on TVNZ, I mentioned these allegations in an editorial I wrote hoever I also did not form and opinion due to the fact that these new allegations were just that – allegations. The fact is there are several separate issues involved. The dispute between Mr Busch & Zion over ownership of the park. The Unfair Dismissal Case currently adjourned before the ERA, The now current investigations into the death of a Park Employee from different government organisations and the dispute over copyrights etc concerning the Lion Man Franchise. The lines between have become seriously blurred. TVNZ should not allow that to happen. Thanks Brian for your logical insight.

    • On this I have to agree. TVNZ are claiming they have ‘documents’ but where is the concrete proof?

      Yes, as I said in the original post, the issue is not whether the allegations have substance, but whether a responsible news outlet should publish anonymous, untested and highly defamatory claims.

  7. Thank you very much brian for your unbiased article on the lionman. I wish other journalists could be as fair and professional as you Thanks!

  8. A friend of mine was recently contacted by HoS for a story about the dangers of energy drinks. She is an innocent young women and she told her story in the hope it might warn others.

    The result?

    A hatchet job story about her losing 45kg on a redbull diet.

    Talk about betrayal of trust by a headline seeking sensationalist media.

    We don’t have decent here anymore. We just have a tabloid press racing each other to the bootom.

    • A friend of mine was recently contacted by HoS for a story about the dangers of energy drinks.

      Very well said, Tom. The only bright spots on this horizon and TVNZ6 and TVNZ7. Media 7 with Russell Brown, by the way, is a must watch programme

  9. Firstly I would like to say a big THANK YOU. You are the one reporter who has finally done what journalism is all about…remained objective and unbiased. This intelligent and thoughtful piece of journalism is a breath of fresh air in light of the amount of one-sided reporting that is going on in the media at the moment. I find it dispicable especially when it is the the job of the media to remain objective….atleast that’s what I was taught in my high school journalism class.

    As you have lead the way I am appealing to you do a follow up story ….a story which shows the amount of support Craig Busch is receiving. In light of the weeks past events and unfounded allegations against Craig, his official Facebook page has almost 13,000 supporters and continues to grow. An online petition calling for Craig to be reinstated to Zion Wildlife Gardens has over 10,000 signatures. Over 10,000 people cannot be wrong. I challenge you to do a story on that.

    Once again, thank you very much for your professionalism and ability to remain non judgemental. You put other journaists to shame.

    Lisa Burnett (ChCh)

    • Firstly I would like to say a big THANK YOU.

      Thanks Lisa. However, the support which Craig Busch is receiving on his Facebook page does not constitute evidence one way or the other on the allegations that he mistreated lions in the past. Sadly 10,000 people can be wrong. And the chances or being wrong are greater if, like you and me, they don’t know the facts.

  10. And you what else peeves me greatly about our tabloid media? They don’t even do tabloid properly. A proper tabloid news media would treat us to a fearless reporter and film crew lying in ambush in the Yukka palms for Richard Worth outside the Northern Club or whatever bolt hole he has taken off to. We would see breathless cross country chases, hands on cameras, scurrying figures with heads hidden!

    Instead, they lamely interview their browsers and regurgitate up for us as if we should be impressed.

    • And you what else peeves me greatly about our tabloid media?

      Come to think of it, you’re right. Nothing wrong with a bit of good tabloid stuff, providing it’s well done and true to its genre.

  11. 11

    I wrote to TVNZ regarding this disgusting behaviour with almost the exact comments you have used.In the Uk if someone had been defamed like this without any basis whatsoever, they’d find a lawsuit slapped on them. Also, The paper should be forced into making a public apology.

    This wasn’t sensationalism – this was a biased and underhand smear campaign.

    For it to have been sensationalism, there would have to have been some facts that were being inflated – none of this seems to have any facts at all, just hearsay, by anonymous people.

    Hey, Tv1 – I wasn’t contacted, I have evidence too – I saw Craig shoot dead three park employees, right in front of me, he then stamped on them, promised to worship satan and buried them under the big patio, I saw him do it. my name? You don’t need my name, I’m afraid of people knowing who I am, but I used to work there. What do you mean prove it? Those others didn’t have to, why single me out as having to provide actual evidence? How unfair! its TRUE I swear it is!

  12. 12

    oh, and TV1? Having the decency to reply to my complaint would have been the professional thing to do. And the responsible thing to do would have been to have insisted on EVIDENCE before printing such rubbish..after all, isn’t that what investigative journalism is based on? Investigations and Journalism?

  13. 13

    and finally…its refreshing to know that BE is actually capable of the objective attitude that in todays society seems to have been lost.

    It seems the journalism world seems to be valuing the emphasis on outrage than of putting the truth/facts out there and allowing the public to make their own unbiased you say BE, all of us could be wrong (I am a fan of Craigs) But heaven knows how any of us are expected to be able to make an informed decision if this is the sort of “evidence” we are given to chew over.

    • I wrote to TVNZ regarding this disgusting behaviour

      Thanks Victoria James. I see you’re the queen of the afterthought. Just a little warning though. Kiwis aren’t good at recognising irony. So I’ll just put in a little reminder that your comments about Craig shooting dead those employees and worshipping Satan were ironic and intended to make a point. Cheers

  14. My advice, following this incident, would be for Craig Busch to issue a writ for defamation. TVNZ would have to disclose who made these comments, the court could judge if the comments were justified and, if they weren’t, award damages to Mr Busch.

    Even if the damages were nominal it would send a message to the TV network not to report innuendo as fact.

    • My advice, following this incident, would be for Craig Busch to issue a writ for defamation.

      You’re dead right in principle, Wendy. Unfortunately the costs of taking a defamation action are huge; it can take years before the case is heard; and the outcome really is a lottery.

  15. It seems thats theres a theme going, on Craigs facebook page Some people are making false alligations against Craig, then they are deleting their posts so it seems they havent said anything. Some people are making false accusations under profiles with no pictures and that are set at private so they are still hiding…. A lot of these people are goading and provoking Craigs fans, i think its completely unnaceptable, they have their opionions, and we ours they should stick to their own pages i think..

    [Comment edited to avoid potential defamation.]

  16. This site rocks!

  17. Great site…keep up the good work.

  18. Just an after thought… If all this were true what was said then surely those who claimed to have the evidence then they would stand tall for truth and right not hide behind anonimity … that is best saved for those who are in danger of their lives. In the UK the policy of providing proof is more acceptable then to claim things and not follow up without evidence..


  19. I think its shamefull for people to make accusations that they cannot back up with proof and i for one do nor believe the allegations that have been ade against craig busch. these people should not condenm anyone or speak out if they do not know the truth.shame on you lisa owen for doing this mean thing against one of the worlds bast loved lion man who would im sure rather die than hurt one his lions or tigers.. dont give up lion man there are people out there who believe in you. chin up and keep fighting im sure you will be back where you belong soon

  20. The smear campaign that has been going on towards Craig Busch is shameful!

  21. Finally a man that see’s this for what it is sentationlist publicity, far too many people have been allowed to condemn a man on other people’s hearsay, no evidence or proof as ever been obtained and yet still to this day these same people continue in their campaign to blacklist, slander and defamate Craig’s character and name, this TVNZ should never have allowed to happen, we all know stories sell the news but to hound a man into the ground is despicable, you should feel nothing but shame for what you have done and your producers should be made to publically apologise for this behaviour, Craig whom i have had the pleasure of meeting is nothing more than a humble, caring man trying to put his life back together, to be reunited with the animals that he loves and cares for, perhaps TVNZ should back this man for a change instead of persecuting him

  22. Just a little update people Craigs Face Book page has now got 35,717 fans, and is still climbing rapidly as people are now starting to hear more about what is going on and want to help craig.. there is still a certain faction claiming stories are true yet when challenged cannot or will not come up with evidence… Logically if your going to put pen to paper (or fingers to keys in this case) wouldn’t it be prudent to have the facts and evidence to back up those facts? well still no proof has turned up yet the media still to it’s wisdom only puts the sensational things (fabricated or unfounded claims of abuse/missuse of equipment or funds now too being said) Craig fans want to help the justice which is felt is not being done… Every court date gets postponed for one reason and another.. after looking through things and reading up on certain things it’s a bit (cosy)certain MAF employees gave a new operators licence to somone with no reall knowledge of what they are supposed to do.. somone who says she did not know facts about the very people she employs… and the 2 MAF emplopyees are in the race horse profession, one has to wonder the reasons of issue (scratch my back scinario?) now i am saying things which is on many peoples minds here I am not allegating but mearly stating possibilites here. nor am I hiding my name i am using is one many many people know me as.

  23. Great article Brian and right on the nose.

    They should offer an apology or acknowledgement to Craig in their next prime time program. Surely this could be reported to NZ press complaints?

    There is lots of information on his Facebook group and I invite you to visit it and see for yourselves the proof. Actual documents of the ongoing battle to get Craig reinstated at the Zion Wildlife Gardens. This article was linked on the group and there are many more to both sides involved in this dreadful mess.