Te Raumawhitu Kupenga declared a conflict of interest and did not participate in determination of this complaint.
[This summary does not form part of the decision.]
An episode of The AM Show featured an interview with Hon. Kelvin Davis regarding the Government’s scheduled series of nationwide Hui with Māori. The programme also discussed legal action taken by prisoners against the Department of Corrections over strip searches, and a short clip of comments by host Duncan Garner on this issue was included in a promo for The AM Show broadcast that evening. A complaint was made that Mr Garner’s comments in relation to the first topic amounted to racist ‘slurs’ against Māori and were dismissive of the Crown’s efforts to fulfil its Treaty obligations, and that the discussion of the second topic trivialised prisoners’ ‘serious abusive treatment’. The Authority did not uphold either aspect of the complaint. The Authority found that, while some of the comments made by Mr Garner could be considered controversial and provocative, this was robust political discourse which carried public interest, and did not go beyond audience expectations. Comments were also made by the other hosts and panel guests which gave a countering view. In this context upholding the complaint would unreasonably restrict the right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Law and Order, Discrimination and Denigration, Accuracy, Balance
 Nicholas Reekie complained about segments of an episode of The AM Show and a promo for The AM Show, both broadcast on 20 March 2018. These dealt with two distinct topics, which we have addressed separately in this decision.
 The first segment complained about included comments made by host Duncan Garner after an interview with Hon. Kelvin Davis about the Government’s scheduled series of nationwide Hui to ‘rejuvenate the relationship’ between the Crown and Māori. Among other things Mr Garner said:
This is about one thing. Labour owns the Māori seats. They want to own them forever. This is about going out there, saying ‘thank you very much, here’s some free tucker, and can you please vote for us for the rest of your lives’.
 Mr Reekie’s second complaint was about a segment titled ‘5 things you should know’, where Mr Garner discussed legal action taken by prisoners against the Department of Corrections over strip searches. Mr Garner said, ‘diddums lads. What are you embarrassed about? It’s a waste of court time.’ A promo for The AM Show broadcast that evening contained the following comment from Mr Garner on the same subject:
What about these prisoners who have gone to Court to moan about the strip search? Toughen up, harden up and get with it. I mean if you’re gonna have a riot, then there is a right to strip-search you and that’s going to happen every single time. What are you scared of showing?
First segment: Labour Party Hui
 Mr Reekie submitted that Mr Garner’s comments after his interview with Hon. Kelvin Davis breached the good taste and decency, law and order and discrimination and denigrations standards because they:
 MediaWorks responded that Mr Garner’s comments, while critical of Labour’s plans to hold nationwide Hui, amounted to robust political criticism. They were unlikely to cause widespread undue offence or distress, and did not carry a high level of condemnation of Māori as a section of the community.
Second segment: Prisoners’ legal action
 Mr Reekie believed Mr Garner’s comments about the legal action being taken by prisoners, in the episode and in the later promo, breached the good taste and decency, law and order, discrimination and denigration, balance and accuracy standards because:
 MediaWorks responded that:
 In considering the complaint, the members of the Authority have viewed recordings of The AM Show and the promo and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.
 Mr Reekie raised the good taste and decency, law and order and discrimination and denigration standards of the Free-to-Air Television Code in relation to both of the topics that concerned him:
 Mr Reekie also raised the balance and accuracy standards in relation to Mr Garner’s comments about the prisoners’ legal action:
 When determining a complaint we first recognise the importance of the right to freedom of expression – which includes both the broadcaster’s freedom to present information and ideas to the public, and the audience’s right to receive that information. We weigh the value of the broadcast item, as well as the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression, against the level of actual or potential harm that might be caused by the broadcast either to an individual or to society or the audience generally.
 Audiences expect that Mr Garner will at times make provocative statements that some people may find challenging. Controversial and provocative speech is valued in a free and democratic society and the threshold for us justifiably restricting this speech is high.
 We have not identified any actual or potential harm arising from the broadcasts which justifies restricting the right to freedom of expression. Both topics discussed carried public interest. It is the responsibility of news and current affairs programmes, such as The AM Show, to not only keep the public informed on these kinds of issues, but also to challenge and examine the surrounding viewpoints in a way that encourages constructive public discourse. The AM Show did this in a way that was consistent with broadcasting standards.
First segment: Hon Kelvin Davis and planned Hui
 In summary, we find Mr Garner’s comments about his interview with Hon. Kelvin Davis and the Government’s planned Hui did not breach the standards raised for the following reasons:
Second segment: Prisoners’ legal action
 We also find Mr Garner’s comments about the legal action being taken by prisoners, in the episode and in the later promo, did not breach the standards raised, for the reasons below:
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
10 August 2018
The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 Nicholas Reekie’s formal complaint – 23 March 2018
2 MediaWorks’ response to the complaint – 2 May 2018
3 Mr Reekie’s referral to the Authority – 15 May 2018
4 MediaWorks’ confirmation of no further comment – 20 June 2018
1 Discrimination and Denigration Commentary, Broadcasting Standards of New Zealand Codebook, page 16.