BSA denies Govt influence over Radio Live show decision

By Amelia Romanos

John Key. File photo / Martin Sykes
John Key. File photo / Martin Sykes

The Broadcasting Standards Authority has denied any Government influence in its decision regarding a complaint about a Radio Live programme last year that featured John Key.

The Prime Minister hosted the hour-long show on September 30, declaring the show a "election-free zone" at the onset, and going on to interview a range of celebrities and discuss issues ranging from Coronation Street to his cat.

The programme outraged members of the Opposition, who complained to the Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) and the Electoral Commission that the show's proximity to the November 26 election qualified it as an election advertisement.

In its decision released last October, the BSA found the show did not fit the definition of an election programme, and even if it had, would not have breached broadcasting standards.

However, a decision released by the Electoral Commission last week the segment was an election programme and therefore a prohibited broadcast.

In a parliamentary commerce committee hearing today, BSA chairman Peter Radich faced a grilling from Labour MP Clare Curran over the discrepancy between the findings.

"Those two decisions are completely contrary to each other and I'd like to know what you think, and how you reconcile that," Ms Curran said.

Mr Radich defended the conclusion the BSA had drawn, saying it was down to interpretation.

"We interpreted a particular part of the [Broadcasting] Act in a particular way, the Electoral Commission interpreted that part of the Act in a different way," he said.

"When we issued our interpretation of the Act it was open to anybody who was dissatisfied with that interpretation to take an appeal to the High Court. No such appeal was taken."

Mr Radich objected strongly to the suggestion that the BSA decision was a result of Government pressure.

"I saw on a blog a suggestion that there could have been some sort of improper influence - I absolutely reject anything of that kind," he said.

"We are completely free of any influence, I've never experienced it, if I did I would be shocked by it, it simply doesn't happen."

He also emphasised that no doubt had been cast on the second part of the BSA's decision, regarding broadcasting standards, and that he had absolute confidence in the BSA staff.

- APNZ

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