Newstalk ZB broadcaster’s blurts censured

Colin Peacock

Newstalk ZB broadcaster Heather du Plessis-Allan has been censured for Pacific Island slurs in a ruling that contains uncharacteristically strong language from the official broadcasting watchdog.

It may end up costing NZME more than the $3000 the company must cough up in costs.

On her Newstalk ZB show Wellington Mornings today, Heather du Plessis-Allan praised Jacinda Ardern for paying the grocery bill of someone without a wallet.

But about an hour earlier, the Broadcasting Standards Authority upheld complaints about Heather du Plessis-Allan telling listeners the government shouldn’t pay the bills of other Pacific Island nations.

“The Pacific Islands don’t matter. They are nothing but leeches on us,” she said.

Unsurprisingly, that upset a lot of people who heard it at the time – or later on RNZ’s Mediawatch.

“Complain to RNZ”

Some people who called Newstalk ZB to complain were initially told they should complain to RNZ instead because that’s where they heard it.

ZB’s owner NZME argued some complaints should not be considered from people who “saw other media reporting” of the comments without the proper context.

The context  – by the way – was Heather du Plessis-Allan telling listeners the Pacific Islands did not deserve financial aid from New Zealand and Jacinda Ardern shouldn’t go to the Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru – which Heather du Plessis-Allan called “a hellhole.”

The BSA Ruling 

The BSA’s ruling said her comments breached the good taste and decency standards  – and those for discrimination and denigration. ZB’s owner NZME has been ordered to pay $3000 in costs.

The comments were “inflammatory,” said the BSA, and “devalued the reputation of Pasifika people within New Zealand – including New Zealanders of Pacific origin.”

NZME had argued the host’s comments were not about specific individuals or organisations and the audience expect “a forthright manner” from a former political journalist.

“Her opinion is in line with the robust opinions offered in talkback . . . which has been recognised as a special category of radio by the Authority,” said NZME.

Indeed it is.

But the BSA decided that “even in the talkback context, these statements went too far.”

Comments repeated

Things are said in the heat of the moment in talk radio to spark discussion – things callers and hosts alike may not say given more time for reflection.

But in this case Heather du Plessis-Allan re-affirmed them two days later.

“I will double down on this. I do not regret what I said because I was not talking about people living in this country or the people themselves. I was talking about the Pacific Islands and the people who run it [sic],” she told her listeners.

She also took a big swing at critics of her comments – including Privacy Commissioner John Edwards.

“Go back to university and do some more training. You are not good enough,” she said.

Colin Peacock works for Media Watch. The above article is a highly edited version of a report that appeared on Radio New Zealand website (reproduced under a Special Agreement with www.rnz.co.nz). For full text, please visit www.indiannewslink.co.nz,

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Photo Caption:

Heather du Plessis-Allan interviewing Foreign Minister Winston Peters on Newstalk ZB last Thursday (Photo: Screenshot/newstalkzb.co.nz)

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