During Michael Laws Talkback the host expressed the view that medical personnel were deliberately
overmedicating patients with dementia, causing them to die. He used the term “zombie” when referring to a person with dementia. The complainant called the station to challenge the host’s comments but was cut off. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that this breached standards relating to accuracy, fairness, and discrimination and denigration: broadcasters have the right to screen calls, as a matter of editorial discretion; the host did not make any derogatory or abusive comments but simply chose not to engage with the complainant; and the use of the term “zombie” was not vitriolic or an attack against people with dementia – the host was expressing his opinion and comments were typical of his style.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness, Discrimination and Denigration
During Michael Laws Talkback, broadcast on Radio Live, the host interviewed the complainant, a spokesperson for the American Pit Bull Terrier Association. The host accused her of misquoting statistics and making untrue statements; he made comments such as “you’re just as bad as your dogs” and, “can you wear a muzzle”. The Authority held that this was a serious breach of the fairness standard and the action taken by the broadcaster, in upholding only part of the fairness complaint, was insufficient. The Authority did not uphold the accuracy complaint since the host did not make unqualified statements of fact.
The Authority ordered the broadcast of a statement, including an apology to the complainant.
Upheld: Fairness and Action Taken
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Accuracy, Discrimination and Denigration, Responsible Programming
Order: Broadcast of statement, including apology to complainant
During Michael Laws Talkback, broadcast two days running on Radio Live, the host discussed the results of a study conducted by Women’s Refuge and the SPCA which showed a link between domestic violence and animal abuse. The host made a number of comments critical of the women who took part in the study and of women who stayed in violent relationships because of their pets. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that the host’s comments breached standards relating to good taste and decency, accuracy, and discrimination and denigration: talkback is a robust and opinionated environment; the comments amounted to the host’s personal opinion and the two programmes were balanced overall; the comments were limited to women who took part in the study and to those who stayed in violent relationships because of their pets, and the comments did not reach the necessary threshold for encouraging discrimination or denigration against any section of the community.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Accuracy, Discrimination and Denigration
During live talkback on the election “tea tapes” story, Radio Live host Michael Laws commented that “the media have gone mad, rabid. If I had a gun I’d shoot them, put them out of their misery, because they have gone rabid and they may infect others.” He went on to specifically mention the Herald on Sunday and questioned why someone hadn’t taken a shotgun and “cleaned out the entire news room”. A majority of the Authority upheld the complaint that these comments breached the good taste and decency standard: the combination of the length of the statement, its repeated use of graphic imagery, its specificity in relation to identified journalists and its mode of delivery made the statement unacceptable. Notwithstanding the importance of freedom of expression, Mr Laws’ comments went too far. The Authority made no order. In a minority decision, one member argued that the broadcast did not breach the good taste and decency standard because of the context of talkback radio and Mr Laws’ style, and the use of an accepted and well understood colloquialism. The Authority unanimously did not uphold the complaint that the words breached the law and order standard.
Upheld (Majority): Good Taste and Decency
Not Upheld: Law and Order
Michael Laws Talkback. Host criticized NZ Fire Service and spokespeople: allegedly in breach of fairness. Order (broadcast of statement).
Michael Laws’ talkback. Critical comments about the Children’s Commissioner. Balance and fairness. Not upheld.
Michael Laws talkback. Exclusive Brethren. Fairness, denigration and discrimination, upheld. Good taste and decency, balance, subsumed. Orders (broadcast of statement, costs $3,456.74).