BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Watson and The Radio Network Ltd - 2004-181

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Paul France
  • Tapu Misa
  • Gary Watson
Classic Hits 89.4FM Nelson

Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Classic Hits Breakfast – comment about complainant – allegedly unfair

Principle 5 (fairness) – not unfair in context of complainant’s public profile, fleeting comment – not likely listeners would have taken comment literally/seriously – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1] During Classic Hits Breakfast, broadcast on Classic Hits (Nelson) on the morning of 27 September 2004, presenter Kent Robertson commented on the death of Radio Fifeshire founder, Kevin Ihaia. During this commentary, he stated:

And I must admit I got a little bit sad and reminiscent about it at one stage and I thought how unfair it is that at 50 Kevin should die and yet Gary Watson lives.


[2] Gary Watson complained about the presenter’s comment. Although he had not heard the broadcast, on the basis of what he had been told about it Mr Watson considered that the comment was unwarranted, offensive and clearly intended to cause hurt and distress. He alleged that the presenter was, at the time of the broadcast, the campaign manager for the incumbent Nelson mayor, and explained that he himself was also a mayoral candidate.


[3] TRN assessed the complaint against Principle 5 of the Radio Code of Practice, which states:

Principle 5
In programmes and their presentation, broadcasters are required to deal justly and fairly with any person taking part or referred to.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[4] TRN did not uphold the complaint, taking into account the context and the attempt at humour. It explained that:

Classic Hits Breakfast broadcasts to an adult audience and contains considerable comment and no little “put down” of identities and celebrities.

[5] After quoting the presenter’s comment, TRN said:

While on the surface this appeared to be a silly comment it also needs to be considered in the light of the local body election. Kent Robertson had on his show taken various pot shots at candidates running for the Mayoralty…

[6] TRN added that the presenter, Kent Robertson, was not the campaign manager for the now re-elected Nelson Mayor.

Referral to the Authority

[7] Mr Watson referred his complaint to the Authority, saying that he did not accept TRN’s response. Having seen TRN’s transcript of the presenter’s comment, Mr Watson said it clearly stated that it was unfair that he was not dead. He said that he had “never heard of anyone saying such things in any comedy shows on radio or TV”. Mr Watson continued:

These comments clearly confirm Mr Robertson’s ongoing aggressive attitude towards me. He clearly states he thinks it is unfair that I am alive. This is totally unacceptable and offensive to me, the many people who have phoned me as well as the Ihaias’ family.

Authority's Determination

[8] The members of the Authority have listened to a tape of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

[9] Principle 5 (fairness) requires that broadcasters deal justly and fairly with those to whom they refer. In this case, the Authority does not consider that the comment made about Mr Watson was unfair as:

  • Mr Watson was a mayoral candidate and a publicly prominent person because of his local government aspirations. The Authority considers that there is generally more scope for broadcasters to talk and joke about politicians and public figures than there would be for other private citizens.
  • The presenter’s comment was one that the Authority considers amounted to legitimate humour in the context of Mr Watson’s profile. In support of its view, the Authority notes that the comment was fleeting and there was nothing in the presenter’s tone to suggest that it was intended as anything other than dry humour.


For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Joanne Morris
25 November 2004


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

  1. Gary Watson’s complaint to TRN – 27 September 2004
  2. TRN’s response to the complaint – 16 October 2004
  3. Mr Watson’s referral to the Authority – received 19 October 2004
  4. TRN’s response to the referral – 29 October 2004