Ratings before lifejackets

By Kathryn Powley

ITM Fishing Show host says safety campaigning isn't his job.
Photo / NZ Herald
ITM Fishing Show host says safety campaigning isn't his job. Photo / NZ Herald

Safety's important, says host ... but it's not good TV

It makes good television, so the host of a popular television fishing show shrugs off being asked if an absence of lifejackets makes good safety sense.

Matt Watson, host of TV3's ITM Fishing show, said he had received regular complaints about the lack of lifejackets on the programme.

He said he'd received a further 20 messages asking about lifejackets on the show after So'saia Paasi and his 7-year-old son Tio drowned last month in a boating accident at Mangere Bridge, Auckland.

Watson said lifejackets were available for all on board.

Safety was hugely important to him - but promoting it wasn't his job.

"First and foremost I've got to make a show that is going to rate, that's the job I'm in. We don't get New Zealand On Air funding. Perhaps if the taxpayer was paying me they might have a bit more of a case.

"I can't jump on every cause. Yes, I think water safety is important, and yes, I think I am in a position where I could help promote that but Water Safety New Zealand are paid by us as taxpayers to do that job.

"In the times where we have done safety messages and said, 'make sure you've got properly functioning lifejackets on board', I haven't had someone from Water Safety New Zealand saying 'Thanks for that'."

Most boats used on the show were at least 8m and not considered small. By law it is compulsory to carry lifejackets for all on board.

"If anyone wants to wear a lifejacket on my show, I'm not going to say, 'oh you bloody girl'. In fact, I say, 'if you want to wear a lifejacket that's cool'."

He insisted on lifejackets when crossing a bar or in rough seas, as he always did for any children on board.

Checking weather forecasts was also important to safety, but it would not be good television to show the detailed safety checks they did before heading out.

Mediaworks spokeswoman Rachel Lorimer said lifejackets weren't mandatory, but TV3 believed in "proactively and visibly" promoting the use of lifejackets and other water safety measures.

She confirmed viewers had complained about people on the ITM Fishing Show not wearing lifejackets.

"It is our policy to actively encourage the producers of relevant programmes to ensure that everyone appearing on screen is wearing lifejackets."

Water Safety New Zealand spokesman Chris Robinson said fishing shows in general were trying to appeal to men wanting to have a good time on the water.

But males made up the bulk of drowning figures.

It would send a strong pro-safety message if those on the shows wore lifejackets.

"They want to be seen as macho," he said. "At some point if they continue that behaviour they are increasing the risk of getting into trouble."

- Herald on Sunday

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