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Lerner and MediaWorks Radio Ltd - 2021-091 (13 October 2021)

  • Susie Staley MNZM (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Paula Rose QSO
  • Jacob Lerner
MediaWorks Radio Ltd
Magic Talk


[This summary does not form part of the decision.]

A segment on Magic Afternoons with Leah Panapa and Danny Watson on 1 July 2021 touched on the topic of Jewish people in Hollywood and included the comment ‘Hollywood was run by Jewish people.’ The broadcaster conceded the comments made by the hosts ‘reflected a trope evoking prejudicial ideas’ and upheld a complaint under the discrimination and denigration standard. The Authority found the comments had the potential to affirm, further embed and spread negative stereotypes, but in the circumstances considered the action taken by the broadcaster was sufficient to address the breach.

Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration (Action Taken)

The broadcast

[1]  During a segment of an episode of Magic Afternoons with Leah Panapa and Danny Watson, on 1 July 2021, the following conversation occurred:

Caller            …soon after the Holocaust, there was world-wide sympathy for…the Jews as a people. And subsequently, if you have a look at Hollywood, you’ll see they’ve put out a lot of movies that are sympathetic to the Jewish cause…

Mr Watson    Well a lot of the [Hollywood] producers are Jewish…

Ms Panapa   Hollywood was run by Jewish people -

Mr Watson    Was run by Jewish people if you get [inaudible]

Caller            And they have the objective of putting forward the Jewish perspective. And there’s no question that they’ve suffered over the years…

The original complaint and the broadcaster’s response

[2]  Jacob Lerner complained the broadcast breached the discrimination and denigration standards for the following reasons:

  • The hosts’ comments are anti-Semitic and reflect a trope about Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other institutions.

[3]  MediaWorks upheld the complaint under the discrimination and denigration standard acknowledging the hosts’ statements reflected a trope evoking prejudicial ideas about the Jewish community. It stated:

‘As a result of this uphold the content director for Magic Talk has discussed your concerns with the team, and counselled staff on the required awareness regarding embedded tropes, and the reasons that such comments breach Standard 6. Please accept our sincere apologies for the broadcast and any harm it may have caused and we hope that we have assured you that there was no intention to denigrate Jewish people.’

[4]  MediaWorks declined Mr Lerner’s request for an on-air apology.

The referral to the Authority

[5]  Mr Lerner referred the complaint to the Authority on the basis the action taken by MediaWorks was insufficient:

  • He requested ‘deterrent penalties’ and costs be awarded.
  • He argued ‘if MediaWorks’ apology was genuine then presumably MediaWorks would have no issue with making the same apology on-air.’

The standard

[6]  The discrimination and denigration standard1 protects against broadcasts which encourage the denigration of, or discrimination against, any section of the community on account of sex, sexual orientation, race, age, disability, occupational status or as a consequence of legitimate expression of religion, culture or political belief. ‘Discrimination’ is defined as encouraging the different treatment of the members of a particular section of the community, to their detriment; and ‘denigration’ is defined as devaluing the reputation of a particular section of the community.2

Our analysis

[7]  We have listened to the broadcast and read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

[8]  We have also considered the important right to freedom of expression, which is our starting point. This includes the broadcaster’s right to offer a range of ideas, information and content and the public’s right to receive those. We may only intervene and uphold a complaint where the broadcast has caused actual or potential harm at a level that outweighs the right to freedom of expression, and has not been remedied by the action taken. For the reasons below, we do not consider regulatory intervention is justified in this case.

Action taken (discrimination and denigration)

[9]  Where a broadcaster has upheld a complaint in the first instance, our role is to consider whether the action taken by the broadcaster was sufficient to remedy the breach. In assessing the sufficiency of actions taken to remedy a breach we consider the severity of the conduct, the extent of the actual or potential harm that may have arisen and whether the action taken appropriately remedied the alleged harm.3

[10]  We consider MediaWorks was correct in finding the broadcast breached the standard for the following reasons:

  • As submitted by the complainant, the statements made by the hosts (implying Jewish domination of Hollywood) reflect ‘the same historical, anti-Semitic mythologizing as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the famously anti-Semitic text ascribing to Jews a plot for world domination’ and control of the media.4
  • These statements have the effect of embedding existing negative stereotypes that are anti-Semitic.5
  • The continued use of negative stereotypes, particularly by broadcast hosts, has the effect of reinforcing or normalising casual racism (even if unintentionally).6

[11]  In terms of assessing the severity of the conduct and extent of harm, we are conscious the comments were racist and offensive to Jewish people and, as noted above, could serve to perpetuate racism of this nature. However, we are also conscious that:

  • The comments were brief and made spontaneously in conversation.
  • Unlike the hosts in two other recent decisions relating to this broadcaster,7 the hosts did not provoke discussion in an inflammatory way.

[12]  The broadcaster also acknowledged and recognised the breach in the first instance, apologising to Mr Lerner. It took steps to educate staff to ensure they are aware and understand the effects of such statements. This was in addition to other significant changes (from a personnel and operational perspective) which have recently occurred at MediaWorks with a view to avoiding casual racism of this nature.8 In these circumstances, we are satisfied that no further action was required to address this breach.

For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Susie Staley
Acting Chair
13 October 2021    




The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:

1  Jacob Lerner’s original complaint to MediaWorks Radio – 1 July 2021

2  MediaWorks’ response to Mr Lerner’s complaint – 29 July 2021

3  Mr Lerner and MediaWorks’ further correspondence – 13 August 2021

4  Mr Lerner’s referral to the Authority – 15 August 2021

5  MediaWorks’ confirmation of no further comment – 9 September 2021

1 Standard 6 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice
2 Guideline 6a
3 Horowhenua District Council and Mediaworks Radio Ltd, Decision No. 2018-105 at [19]
4 Holocaust Encyclopedia “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” <>; Britannica Encyclopedia “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” <>
5 Waxman and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision 2020-042
6 Cant and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2020-071 at [11]
7 See McAulay and MediaWorks Radio Ltd, Decision No. 2021-015 and Tualamali’i & Whittaker and MediaWorks Radio Ltd, Decision No. 2020-063
8 See McAulay and MediaWorks Radio Ltd, Decision No. 2021-015 at [24]