Key Points:

Radio Live is hailing a Broadcasting Standards Authority decision not to uphold a complaint against it by Children's Commissioner Cindy Kiro as a "real fillip for freedom of speech".

Dr Kiro's complaint related to a programme hosted by controversial talkback host and Wanganui mayor Michael Laws last August 8.

The programme discussed the release of a report by Dr Kiro and Barnardos which concluded that a quarter of a million children in New Zealand were living below the poverty line.

Radio Live programme director Mitch Harris today said that the decision by the authority "raises real issues about the actions of this senior public servant".

The Children's Commissioner had employed a lawyer to pursue the complaint beyond the point of reasonableness, he said.

Dr Kiro clearly had a problem with Michael Laws' robust criticism of her office and her actions.

"The complaint was a chilling attempt by a government agent to suppress freedom of speech. The BSA's judgement is an important win for talk radio and talkback, in particular," Mr Harris said.

He said Laws was entitled to his views about the competence of the commissioner and her office.

"He has enjoyed the support of former commissioner Roger McClay on this matter.

"However, as the BSA note, when a senior public servant in the public eye, cannot take such direct criticism - and spends taxpayer monies to try and halt Michael Laws - then that deserves to be called for the contempt that it is," Mr Harris said.

Dr Kiro had complained to the BSA the Laws' remarks on the programme were unbalanced and unfair to her.

She argued that the programme "often cast aspersions on (her) competence" and that she was personally mentioned more than 50 times during the three-hour talkback programme.

But the BSA said listeners would not expect a range of balanced views from Laws' talkback.

It said the host's criticisms were not unfair in the robust talkback environment.

"Indeed, it is an essential element of free speech that even the most trenchant criticism of public figures be allowed," the authority said.

"As an appointed official carrying out a public function, Dr Kiro's work and her conduct were appropriately the subject of scrutiny, comment and criticism."

The authority agreed with the broadcaster that talkback was a means for the public to express their views on a range of issues. There was no requirement for those views to be well-informed, balanced or considered.

- NZPA