Sky New Zealand has pulled fellow broadcaster Sky News Australia off air until the channel stops broadcasting clips from the Christchurch mosque shooter’s Facebook live stream.
Despite a plea from New Zealand police, Rupert Murdoch’s Australian pay-TV channel was among the broadcasters that chose to screen Go Pro footage shot by a man who slaughtered 49 people at two mosques in Christchurch on Friday.
“Police are aware there is extremely distressing footage relating to the incident in Christchurch circulating online,” the police said in a statement. “We would strongly urge that the link not be shared. We are working to have any footage removed.”
Brenton Tarrant was alleged to have filmed a 17-minute Facebook video which included his drive to the mosque, his arsenal of weapons and graphic scenes of his murderous rampage. Media organisations that have used the film stopped the video as he entered the mosque.
Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have removed the footage but new copies are constantly being uploaded.
In a tweet posted on Saturday morning, Sky New Zealand, an independently-owned broadcaster, said it had decided to remove the Australian 24-hour news channel from its platform because of the distressing footage.
Sky News Australia has been broadcasting the footage repeatedly, sparking anger on social media. It was also shown via Sky News Australia on screens in Qantas airways lounges at airports. Qantas has been approached for comment.
A spokeswoman for Sky New Zealand told Guardian Australia the company was in negotiations with Sky News Australia as to when the channel would be restored to the platform.
“We stand in support of our fellow New Zealanders and do not wish to show the distressing footage that has been shared at this time. We will resume service when available,” a social media spokeswoman said on Twitter.
“All other news channels are still available. BBC World and CNN are available on SKY GO.”
Sky New Zealand attempted to calm anger over Sky’s repeated use of the footage by assuring the public it was a separate company owned by New Zealanders and was not affiliated with News Corp.
Sky News Australia said on Saturday it “provides a live feed into New Zealand on the SKY television platform”.
“As the live rolling events of the Christchurch shooting unfolded, an editorial decision was made by Sky News Australia to offer sports programming to SKY NZ in place of Sky News Australia’s live feed to ensure any footage or reporting did not compromise the ongoing investigations taking place in New Zealand.
“Sky News Australia acted responsibly and prudently in replacing the service as soon as it was able to early yesterday evening after consulting with SKY NZ management.”
On Friday a Sky News Australia spokesman had said: “Sky News in line with other broadcasters ran heavily edited footage that did not show the shootings or the victims.”
Another Australian channel, Network 10, defended its decision to embed parts of the video on its 10 Daily platform as part of its news coverage on Friday.
“We are appalled and deeply saddened by the tragic events in Christchurch today,” a spokeswoman said. “Like other media outlets, 10 Daily showed footage of the gunman walking towards the door of the mosque. We warned about the nature of the vision in the accompanying story. We did not show any vision from inside the mosque.”
The public broadcaster ABC did not use the audio or the footage from the Go Pro camera but did show images on air and online.
The edited video was heavily promoted on all News Corp websites, with warnings about distressing content.
Sky News Australia provides a live feed into New Zealand on the SKY television platform.
As the live rolling events of the Christchurch shooting unfolded, an editorial decision was made by Sky News Australia to offer sports programming to SKY NZ in place of Sky News Australia’s live feed to ensure any footage or reporting did not compromise the ongoing investigations taking place in New Zealand.
Sky News Australia acted responsibly and prudently in replacing the service as soon as it was able to early yesterday evening after consulting with SKY NZ management.