The Authority has not upheld two complaints about Mike Hosking’s statement on Mike Hosking Breakfast that the Duchess of Sussex was a ‘shallow, self-absorbed, attention-seeking, woke bandwagon-riding hussy’. The Authority found it was not likely to cause widespread, undue offence in the context. Although the discrimination and denigration standard applied, as the word ‘hussy’ may refer to and reflect upon women as a section of society, the comments did not meet the threshold justifying regulatory intervention.
Not upheld: Good taste and decency, discrimination and denigration
During Mike Hosking Breakfast on Newstalk ZB, Mike Yardley (standing in for Mr Hosking) briefly mentioned the flouting of COVID-19 rules by two named Sky News UK journalists and stated: ‘veteran journalist Adam Boulton is also involved in this’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint the broadcast breached the accuracy standard by misleading listeners to believe Mr Boulton was one of those who flouted the rules. The Authority acknowledged that, without further clarification, the broadcast may have created that impression. However in all the circumstances the potential harm in a New Zealand broadcasting context was not at a level justifying regulatory intervention.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
In a segment on the Mike Hosking Breakfast programme, the host interviewed the Prime Minister about the Government’s decision to extend the Level 3 lockdown restrictions on Auckland in August 2020. The Authority did not uphold the complaints. It recognised the value of robust political discourse in the media and the role of media in holding to account those in positions of power. Overall, it found no harm at a level justifying regulatory intervention. While some may have found Mr Hosking’s approach and comments distasteful, they did not go beyond what could be expected of an interview of this nature.
Not Upheld: Fairness, Good Taste and Decency, Balance, Accuracy, Discrimination and Denigration, Children’s Interests
The Authority did not uphold an accuracy complaint about Mike Hosking’s comments on the COVID-19 testing regime during his ‘Mike’s Minute’ segment on Newstalk ZB. The complaint was that the segment was inaccurate and misleading, for example by suggesting the Prime Minister was encouraging COVID-19 testing to scare the public and as a political ploy. The Authority found the statements made by Mr Hosking were expressions of his own opinion and analysis to which the accuracy standard did not apply.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
The Authority has upheld a complaint that comments made by Mike Hosking during his ‘Mike’s Minute’ segment were misleading in breach of the accuracy standard. Mr Hosking made statements referring to death-rate statistics in Italy related to COVID-19, including that ‘99.2% percent died with underlying health issues. In other words, the very things that were killing them anyway, at over 1,600 per day’. The Authority found the comments were misleading as the broadcaster conflated its own conclusions, drawn from a study into Italy’s COVID-19 figures, with the figure of 1,600 deaths per day, which was based on 2018 population data and ignored both cause of death and the notion of ‘excess mortality’. In this respect, the Authority emphasised the importance of data literacy among broadcasters and journalists, to ensure statistics are not misinterpreted or misrepresented. Finally, the Authority found the comments about people with ‘underlying health conditions’ did not reach the high threshold for finding a breach of the discrimination and denigration standard.
Upheld: Accuracy. Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration.
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that a satirical segment would have been offensive to Christians. The segment was an imagined promo for reality show The Block, set in Jerusalem and featured contestants who shared the names of biblical figures, including Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Thomas and Judas. The promo was broadcast on Good Friday. The Authority did not consider the broadcast’s content would have unduly offended or distressed the general audience, and it did not reach the high threshold necessary for finding it encouraged the denigration of, or discrimination against, Christians as a section of the community. The broadcast did not cause actual or potential harm at a level which justified limiting the right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Discrimination and Denigration
The Authority did not uphold two complaints that comments made by Mike Hosking during his Mike’s Minute segment breached the discrimination and denigration and accuracy standards. Discussing two recent immigration policy decisions by the Government, Mr Hosking commented, ‘discrimination is no bad thing’ and, ‘Where do too many of the radicalised nutters come from? That particular part of the planet [Africa and the Middle East]... We don’t want to take the risk of a poor-ish person’s parent arriving – so why a jihadist?’ The Authority acknowledged the complainants’ concerns that Mr Hosking’s choice of language was inflammatory. However, it found that in the context of the item, which carried public interest, the comments complained about were brief and moderated by the remainder of the item. Mr Hosking was expressing his genuinely held opinion on a legitimate issue, rather than being malicious or nasty. Therefore the comments did not reach the high threshold for encouraging discrimination or denigration, and did not warrant limiting the right to freedom of expression. The Authority also found Mr Hosking’s comments were distinguishable as analysis, comment and opinion so the accuracy standard did not apply.
Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration, Accuracy
The majority of the Authority did not uphold a complaint that a comment made by Mike Hosking during a ‘Mike’s Minute’ segment of Mike Hosking Breakfast about the government’s surplus breached the accuracy standard. The majority found that, considering a number of contextual factors, the statement was one of comment and political analysis, the type of which is common in news and current affairs broadcasts to which the accuracy standard does not apply. The minority view was that Mr Hosking’s comment was an inaccurate statement of fact on which he then based his opinion and that the broadcaster did not make reasonable efforts to ensure the accuracy of the statement on which the following comments were based.
Not Upheld by Majority: Accuracy
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that an interview broadcast on Newstalk ZB in December 2018, regarding a proposed Police seizure of military style semi-automatic weapons, was unbalanced and inaccurate. The Authority first found that a valid formal complaint had been lodged with the broadcaster (which was required before the complaint could be referred to the Authority), as sufficient information was provided by the complainant for the correct broadcast to be identified and for the broadcaster to respond to the issues raised. The Authority then determined the complaint, finding that balancing perspectives on the issue of Police seizure were presented during news items prior to and following the interview. While the Authority agreed that information conveyed during the introduction to the interview could have been made more clear by the presenter, the presenter’s statement did not amount to a material error of fact in the context of the interview as a whole. In these circumstances, the Authority found that the harm alleged did not outweigh the right to freedom of expression, and any intervention in upholding the complaint would be unreasonable and unjustified.
Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy
In a weekly interview segment on Mike Hosking Breakfast, Prime Minister John Key criticised the Labour Party while discussing a number of political topics. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that the host displayed political bias and let the Prime Minister criticise other parties unchallenged, without them being offered any right of reply. This segment with the Prime Minister of the day has been running for 25 years, it was transparently political advocacy, and it did not purport to be a balanced or even-handed discussion of political issues. Other politicians were also interviewed on Newstalk ZB on a regular basis.
Not Upheld: Controversial Issues, Fairness, Accuracy, Responsible Programming, Discrimination and Denigration
During a panel discussion on the Mike Hosking Breakfast show about the government’s funding of America’s Cup campaigners, one of the panellists said ‘fucking’. She immediately apologised for the slip-up, and the other participants rebuked her in a light-hearted manner. The broadcaster upheld the complaint and counselled the panellist. The Authority found that the action taken by the broadcaster was sufficient. It noted the comment was made during a legitimate discussion about a matter of public interest, and all of the participants acknowledged at the time that the swearing was inappropriate.
Not Upheld (Action Taken): Good Taste and Decency, Responsible Programming