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Decisions
Marr & Robinson and NZME Radio Ltd - 2018-080 (16 January 2019)
2018-080

The Authority has not upheld two complaints that comments by Leighton Smith about climate change issues were unbalanced, inaccurate and unfair. Mr Smith provided his views in response to a news item, saying that climate change was not predominantly man made and was instead due to ‘normal variability’. The Authority noted that the balance and accuracy standards apply only to news, current affairs and factual programmes, and the requirements of the accuracy standard do not apply to statements of analysis, comment or opinion. In this case, the Authority considered it was clear that Mr Smith’s statements amounted to statements of opinion in a talkback context. In these circumstances, and taking into account the role and reputation of Mr Smith as a well-known climate change sceptic, listeners would not expect to hear a balanced or authoritative examination on the topic of climate change. Further, no individuals or organisations were treated unfairly in the broadcast. The Authority therefore found that the alleged harm did not outweigh the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression, and its intervention in upholding the complaint would be unjustified.

Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy, Fairness

Decisions
Roberts and NZME Radio Ltd - 2018-082 (16 January 2019)
2018-082

During a segment on The Leighton Smith Show, host Leighton Smith quoted a listener’s views on news sources such as CNN, the BBC and Newshub. Mr Smith went on to say that consumers of similar sources lived in ‘blissful ignorance’ because they did not listen to the views of ‘the other side’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that Mr Smith’s comments were biased and dismissive towards reputable news sources. The Authority noted that, while talkback radio is not immune to broadcasting standards, the balance and accuracy standards in particular apply only to news, current affairs and factual programmes, and the accuracy standard does not apply to statements clearly distinguishable as analysis, comment or opinion. In this case, and taking into account wider contextual factors such as audience expectations of the programme (which is predominantly talkback) and the reputation of Mr Smith, the Authority agreed that Mr Smith’s comments were clearly distinguishable as opinion and listeners would not have been left misinformed or misled. This was an opinion open to Mr Smith to express, and was not unfair to the news organisations or their consumers. The Authority therefore found that its intervention, in upholding the complaint and limiting the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression, would be unjustified.

Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy, Fairness

Decisions
Haines and NZME Radio Ltd - 2017-039 (17 July 2017)
2017-039

During a talkback segment on the Leighton Smith Show, the host discussed the recent legal personhood granted to the Whanganui River. The complainant, Mr Haines, phoned in to the programme to discuss the issue. After a two-and-a-half minute conversation, Mr Smith responded that it was ‘stupidity to give [the Whanganui River] equal status as a person. Now get off the phone,’ and made comments about Mr Haines self-identifying as Māori. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that Mr Smith’s statements were derogatory and insulting to Mr Haines and to Māori people. While the Authority acknowledged that Mr Smith’s comments could be seen as dismissive and disrespectful, in the context of the robust talkback radio environment, they did not reach the level necessary to constitute unfair treatment or to encourage discrimination or denigration. Mr Haines was afforded a fair and reasonable time to put forward his views. Mr Smith’s disagreement in response was typical of the talkback genre, in which hosts often express contentious or strong views in the interests of generating debate, and of his well-known forceful style. The Authority noted that the free and frank expression of opinions is an important aspect of the right to freedom of expression, and is valued in our society. Mr Smith was entitled to express his opinion, even if it was critical or if others disagreed, and it did not reach a level which warranted the Authority’s intervention.

Not Upheld: Fairness, Discrimination and Denigration, Balance

Decisions
Saunders and NZME Radio Ltd - 2016-089 (16 February 2017)
2016-089

During the Leighton Smith Show, presenter Leighton Smith, in relation to a headline regarding Pope Francis’ warning to then President-elect Donald Trump, ‘do not back away from UN climate pact’, said, ‘I don’t want to offend, certainly not insult, any Catholics listening, but how did you end up with this tosser?’ The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this comment was derogatory, crude and demeaning. Mr Smith was entitled to express his opinion on the Pope’s stance on climate change and while his comment was considered offensive by the complainant, in the context of a talkback radio show, the Authority did not consider it undermined current norms of good taste and decency. The comment did not breach the other broadcasting standards raised by the complainant, as it reflected Mr Smith’s opinion, did not discriminate or denigrate against a section of the community, and as a public figure speaking publicly on a controversial issue, Pope Francis could have expected commentary and criticism and was therefore not treated unfairly by Mr Smith.

Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Discrimination and Denigration, Balance, Accuracy, Fairness    

Decisions
Cowsill and New Zealand Media and Entertainment - 2016-031 (27 June 2016)
2016-031

During Leighton Smith the host discussed Wicked Campers with a caller and commented, ‘Now I’m interested to know what your reaction is to my suggestion that if you see one of these, you know, if you’re offended by one of these vans, run a screwdriver down through the so-called artwork’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the comments were irresponsible and encouraged listeners to break the law. It did not consider Mr Smith was seriously advocating damaging the campervans or that listeners would have been incited to commit unlawful acts, taking into account the target audience and the nature of the programme.

Not Upheld: Law and Order

Decisions
Tawfik and New Zealand Media and Entertainment - 2015-067
2015-067

During his talkback show, host Leighton Smith in a conversation with a caller about the impact of cultural and religious beliefs on others, asked, ‘How do you think the Muslims will fit into that?’ He then repeated the question as, ‘How do you think the beheaders will fit into that?’ The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this promoted anti-Islamic sentiment and was extremely offensive. While the comment was objectionable, it was relatively brief and not repeated, and did not reach the high threshold necessary to constitute hate speech or encourage discrimination or denigration. Mr Smith was also apparently questioned about the comment by the programme producer and he attempted to explain what he meant.  

Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration

Decisions
Heerdegen and The Radio Network Ltd - 2012-043
2012-043

During the Leighton Smith Show on Newstalk ZB, the host discussed verdicts in the Urewera Four case. The complainant phoned the programme and the host subsequently made comments about “nut bars” in New Zealand. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that this breached the discrimination and denigration standard: the standard only applies to sections of the community and not to individuals; it was unclear which section of the community the complainant considered was denigrated or discriminated against; and the host’s comments were clearly his personal opinion and were not specifically directed at the complainant.

Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration

Decisions
Nelson and The Radio Network Ltd - 2003-120
2003-120

Leighton Smith Morning Show. Interview with evangelist from United States advanced prophecies from the Bible. Not upheld (balance, accuracy, denigration).

Decisions
Smith and The Radio Network Ltd - 2002-188
2002-188

Newstalk ZB: Leighton Smith Morning Show. Caller used word "mongrel" to describe bad parents. Not upheld (good taste and decency, discrimination and denigration).

Decisions
Smith and The Radio Network Ltd - 2002-058
2002-058

Leighton Smith Morning Show. Talkback host described protest group as a pack of mongrels. Upheld (good taste and decency). Not upheld (discrimination and denigration). Order (broadcast of approved statement).

Decisions
Credo Society Inc and The Radio Network Ltd - 2000-163
2000-163

Leighton Smith talkback. Comment on fax received from Credo Society regarding standards in the media. Not upheld (fairness, discrimination and denigration).