BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Cassidy and The Radio Network Ltd - 2003-173

Members
  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Tapu Misa
  • R Bryant
Dated
Complainant
  • Milton Cassidy
Number
2003-173
Channel/Station
Newstalk ZB

Complaint
Newstalk ZB – Larry Williams Drive Show – interview with General Manager of Mitsubishi Motors on sponsorship withdrawal from the Holmes television programme – host allegedly trivialised Holmes’ comments on Kofi Annan – host’s comments allegedly racist

Findings
Principle 7 Guideline 7a – legitimate interview – threshold not reached – no uphold

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Summary

[1] Larry Williams, the host of the Larry Williams Drive Show on Newstalk ZB, interviewed the General Manager of Mitsubishi Motors on its sponsorship withdrawal from the Holmes television programme. The host commented critically on the reasons for the withdrawal and then received four calls from the public, all of whom condemned Mitsubishi’s decision.

[2] Milton Cassidy complained to The Radio Network Ltd, the broadcaster, that Larry William’s comments trivialised the racist comments made by Paul Holmes about Kofi Annan.

[3] In response, TRN stated that Larry Williams’s comments were not necessarily supporting a “racist view”. Rather, they were his opinion on Mr Holmes’ style of broadcasting. It declined to uphold the complaint.

[4] Dissatisfied with TRN’s decision, Mr Cassidy referred the complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8 (1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

For the reasons below, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

Decision

[5] The members of the Authority have listened to a tape of the programme complained about and have read the correspondence which is listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

The Programme

[6] Larry Williams, the host of the Larry Williams Drive Show on Newstalk ZB, interviewed the General Manager of Mitsubishi Motors on its sponsorship withdrawal from the Holmes television programme. The host commented critically on the reasons for Mitsubishi’s decision and the nature of Paul Holmes’ comments that precipitated the decision. The host then took four calls from the public, all of whom condemned Mitsubishi’s decision. The programme was broadcast on Monday 29 September 2003 at 5.10pm.

The Complaint

[7] Milton Cassidy complained to the broadcaster that Larry Williams’ comments trivialised the racist comments made by Paul Holmes about Kofi Annan. According to Mr Cassidy, Larry Williams stated that “Paul’s comments were not serious, and that we should just move on …”.

[8] The complainant also contended that the interview was not objective and appeared to provide the host with “an opportunity to support Paul’s racist views”.

The Standards

[9] TRN assessed the complaint under the following principle in the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice. The Principle and relevant Guideline provide:

Principle 7

In programmes and their presentation, broadcasters are required to be socially responsible.

Guideline

7a  Broadcasters will not portray people in a manner which encourages denigration of or discrimination against any section of the community on account of gender, race, age, disability, occupational status, sexual orientation; or as the consequence of legitimate expression of religious, cultural or political beliefs. This requirement does not extend to prevent the broadcast of material which is:

i) factual; or

ii) a genuine expression of serious comment, analysis or opinion; or

iii) is by way of legitimate humour or satire.

The Broadcaster’s Response to the Complainant

[10] TRN’s response to the formal complaint detailed its actions in relation to the Holmes broadcast but did not address the complaint about the Larry Williams Drive Show.

The Referral to the Authority

[11] Mr Cassidy advised the Authority that, while he was satisfied with the measures taken by the broadcaster to reprimand Paul Holmes, TRN had failed to address his concern at what he described as the “racist comments” made by Larry Williams during the Larry Williams Drive Show.

The Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[12] TRN contended that the interview between Larry Williams and Mitsubishi’s General Manager was a searching interview, typical of those on the programme. It maintained that it was the host’s right to take the line he did.

[13] TRN noted the comments made by the host during the four calls from members of the public. TRN wrote:

During the second call Larry Williams makes these comments, “Holmes makes some comments, he apologises, what do they want from this guy, he said that he shouldn’t have made the comments even though the comments, in my view were not serious … they were typical Holmes comments, in jest and tongue in cheek, many of them”.

[14] TRN argued that the host’s comment did not necessarily support a “racist view”. Rather it was simply comment on Mr Holmes’ style of broadcasting.

The Authority’s Determination

[15] In view of the importance with which it regards freedom of speech the Authority has consistently taken the view that there is a high threshold to be attained before it finds a breach of Guideline 7a of Principle 7 of the Radio Code.

[16] It is the Authority’s view that the principle was not seriously threatened on this occasion as the focus of the interview was Mitsubishi’s reaction to Mr Holmes’ comments rather than the comments themselves. The interview consisted of an analysis of Mitsubishi’s reaction and the host’s view on the company’s stance. The Authority also notes that the host neither endorsed nor supported the comments made by Mr Holmes about Kofi Annan.

[17] Accordingly, the Authority concludes that the host did not encourage discrimination against or denigration of a section of the community on account of race. It declines to uphold a breach of Principle 7.

 

For the above reasons, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
19 December 2003

Appendix

The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:

1. Milton Cassidy’s Complaint to The Radio Network Ltd – 30 September 2003
2. TRN’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 6 October 2003
3. Mr Cassidy’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 16 October 2003
4. TRN’s Response to the Authority – 23 October 2003