MediaWorks fined over comments on John Banks' show that denigrated Māori

Source: 1News

The Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) has found a dialogue between stand-in Magic Talk host John Banks and a caller, including denigrating comments about Māori culture, breached broadcasting standards.

John Banks

The exchange happened on January 26 when former Auckland Mayor John Banks was filling in for Peter Williams on Magic Talk.

During a segment, there was discussion about the resignation of Oranga Tamariki chief executive Grainne Moss where Banks responded to a caller who said Māori, in general were "genetically predisposed to crime, alcohol and under performance educationally," and said they were a "stone-age people".

Banks interrupted the caller, saying “just a minute, your children need to get used to their stone-age culture because if their stone-age culture doesn’t change, these people will come through your bathroom window”.

The following day, Banks apologised for the exchange and for not challenging the racist caller, saying he "didn't pick it up at the time". 

"I spoke to people later in the show who disagreed with the man and I picked it up then, however this wasn't enough to demonstrate that his comments were wrong and racist," Banks said in January. 

He was removed from the talkback show the following week over the incident along with several large advertisers and sponsors pulling their support and association with Magic Talk.

Banks’ fellow Magic Talk host Ryan Bridge said at the time, the call was “blatantly racist” and made his “skin crawl”.

In a statement today, the BSA said in its decision it had ordered the broadcaster, MediaWorks Radio Ltd, to broadcast a statement during Magic Mornings with Peter Williams on Magic Talk summarising the BSA’s decision and to pay $3,000 in costs to the Crown.

"The BSA determined that the broadcast breached the good taste and decency and discrimination and denigration standards. It upheld a complaint that action taken by MediaWorks, including apologising, standing down Mr Banks and making operational changes, did not sufficiently remedy the harm caused by the breaches," the statement said. 

The Authority found the comments were foreseeable in the broadcast environment MediaWorks had created.

“The breach in this case was not a simple slip-up where MediaWorks personnel failed to identify and respond to an isolated discriminatory comment before it could be broadcast. The way the talkback topic was framed by Mr Banks as part of his introduction created an environment in which such discriminatory comments were foreseeable and practically inevitable,” the BSA said in the decision.

“The acknowledged lack of editorial boundary-setting and the systems within the production of the programme increased the severity of the breach to a level which was not sufficiently addressed by the broadcaster.”

The BSA said it was conscious the public platform enjoyed by broadcasters “places them in a unique position to influence public views, effectively ‘normalising’ certain behaviours”.

In these circumstances, the comments broadcast had the potential to cause significant harm within society, particularly among Māori communities, the decision said.