Matt McCarten on politics

Matt McCarten is a Herald on Sunday political columnist

Matt McCarten: Talkback bosses also at fault

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Willie Jackson and John Tamihere have been taken off the air for the rest of the year. Photo / NZPA
Willie Jackson and John Tamihere have been taken off the air for the rest of the year. Photo / NZPA

On Tuesday I got my pink slip from RadioLive, along with Matthew Hooton, as a weekly political panellist on the "Willie and JT" show.

After last week's meltdown in the RadioLive studio, we were all in deep trouble. It's called self-immolation. I'll put myself down as collateral damage.

I'm not displeased to get that afternoon back, anyway. It was sometimes a nuisance to fit it in for just an hour in the middle of every Thursday afternoon.

With Auckland traffic time and the usual after-show drinks with the four of us, the rest of the day disappeared. After my hopeful escape from cancer, I've cut my drinking to a trickle and certainly none during the day.

That meant I was frequently a no-show and when I did turn up it was either water or an orange juice, where I mused if the sugar in the juice or beer was worse for feeding cancer cells.

After last week's meltdown, any future drinkies with the lads is well over. The other three are entertainingly smart and I'll miss the discourse.

Former RadioLive boss Mitch Harris, a seasoned broadcaster, instituted the weekly ritual when he first hired Willy Jackson and John Tamihere.

Taking the risk of putting a couple of irreverent and unrepentant Maori scrappers on to mainstream radio was an inspired choice. Willy was already an experienced broadcaster on Maori issues. The chemistry between him and JT was infectious and genuine, and created a fabulous mainstream talkback show. They really are brothers in the best sense.

I agreed to a request from Mitch to become a show regular, as I loved the show and because of my long friendship with Willie and political respect for JT and Matthew.

When Mitch was the boss he turned up most Thursdays, not just to socialise but to mentor them and give firm direction when necessary. As a consequence, their show was cutting-edge and won national awards.

After Mitch's tenure ended, the hands-on management of these two hasn't been obvious. My union experience shows where there's an isolated case of misbehaviour it is the employee's fault; a competent manager can correct it - but when there is a pattern of concerns it's always the fault of management.

There have been many times I was surprised we got away with things on our weekly panel. There were no sanctions. The news that two other RadioLive hosts were apologising this week for their comments suggests a wider problem.

The fact that Willie and JT's interview that triggered the fallout was put up on the RadioLive website as something to promote is staggering. Did management think this was great or were they asleep at the wheel?

Matthew tweeting that he was going to create a scene on the show and no RadioLive managers thinking that might be problem for their business is, in my opinion, surely negligent.

If a radio station employs strong-willed men and encourages them to be controversially opinionated without tight reins, then the kind of thing that happened last week is inevitable.

Yes, it's a men's problem on how we see and treat women, and it's a good thing it has created a long-overdue conversation.

The fact that management reaction was irresponsibly delayed and none of these managers have fronted directly says a lot about RadioWorks' corporate culture.

Hiding behind their PR shows a lack of accountability and leadership. It seems it's not just RadioLive's broadcasters who need to examine their conduct.

- Herald on Sunday

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