NZ radio networks have no plans to ban hoax calls

2Day FM DJ Michael Christian

NZ radio networks have no plans to ban hoax calls

Our two largest radio networks have no plans to ban hoax calls in the wake of Australia’s 2Day FM scandal.

You don’t have to be a broadcasting genius to know neither stations in the APN owned The Radio Network (TRN), nor those in the MediaWorks stable are about to make any prank calls in the immediate future.

But neither have they sworn off the practice.

TRN group general manager of content David Brice did allow that APN was reviewing its processes and procedures.

A spokeswoman for MediaWorks said the company was not reviewing its protocols. It believed they were already robust.

However, “We have reminded relevant staff of the protocols and consent processes that are in place for editorial content, especially that involving members of the public.”

TRN stations include NewsTalkZB, Flava, Hauraki, ZM and Classic Hits; MediaWorks includes The Edge, The Rock and Radio Live.

Who was to blame?
Across the Tasman a lot of public attention has focussed on 2Day FM DJs Mel Greig and Michael Christian.

Radio Broadcasters Association CEO Bill Francis explained to NBR ONLNE that, “under normal circumstances,” there would have been a number of staff involved in the decision to broadcast the pre-recorded hoax call.

The show’s producer would have known what was going on.

Given the controversial nature of the call, Mr Francis expected a content or programme director would also have been involved in discussions.

“Under normal circumstances” is the operative phrase here.

“I watched the interview and there was a lot of fudging around who else was involved,” Mr Francis said.

2Day FM owner Southern Cross Austereo has said the pre-recorded call was legally vetted, and that at least five attempts were made to contact the hospital hoaxed in the original call. However, it has been vague about who was directly involved.

If the producer and programme director were involved in the decision to broadcast, then they are equally as culpable as the DJs, Mr Francis said. (At least in moral terms. Legally, they seem to be off the hook, legal experts tell NBR.)

The situation could be complicated if DJs pushed past a young or inexperienced producer, Mr Francis noted.

He advised Ms Greig and Mr Christian to be careful to tell the truth, given the situation could end up in court.

Eye on advertiser backlash, social media
Naturally, the industry isn’t about to invite further regulation. Mr Francis told NBR that beyond criminal laws, it was already covered by comprehensive good taste and decency provisions enforced by the Broadcasting Standards Authority.

Local broadcasters are also keenly aware that advertisers pulled out of 2Day FM as fallout from the hoax call hit, Mr Francis said – echoing earlier problems suffered after comments by talkback host Alan Jones at another Australian station, 2GB.

Radio stations had to be particularly careful with the rise of social media, which fans any fire.

An NZ tradition
And while he condemns the 2Day FM hoax, the Radio Broadcasters Association boss notes that hijinks have a long-standing tradition in New Zealand radio.

For example in a 1949 April Fool’s Day prank, 1ZB host Phil Shone told listeners a swarm of bees a mile wide was heading for Auckland.

Hundreds took his advice to wear socks over their trousers as they walked to work. Humourless MPs subsequently took Mr Shone to task with questions in parliament.

And a young Paul Holmes was told he would never work again after razzing the Archbishop of Canterbury.

It would be a shame if pranks were stamped out, Mr Francis says.

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3 Comments & Questions

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This was an absolute tragedy and totally unpredictable. Hoax calls are a standard part of the radio diet in most western countries and for many listeners part of the reasons they listen to particular shows. I have often wondered at the many TV programs which make a living by pranking people and how many of them don't end up in disaster. Many of them probably do, but I suspect people get paid off for their troubles and their silence.

My sympathies in this case go to all parties. There was obviously no malicious intent and I'm sure that applies to the majority of hoax calls which are largely enjoyed by the listening and viewing public. How can we deal with so many challenges in life without a sense of humour?

If legal departments have to get involved with each prank idea that DJ's come up with, radio is going to get pretty dull and more and more people will be heading for streaming music and entertainment.

I still have many questions about the outcome. There must be more to that story, but I won't ask in respect to the people involved.

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A lot of the 'prank calls' are scripted and voiced by actors anyway. The Rock's "wind up your wife", in particular.

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NZ law should be brought into line with Australia - broadcasting people without their consent should be prohibited for all media.

TV3 would have to be the worst offender for TV. One of their sleezy reporters drive down our private driveway, filming all the way, past the No Trespassing sign (which they did not film), knocked on our door, then asked the person who answered if they could cross our land. At no time did they say they were filming (seems they had a cameraman hiding in the back of the car). The theme of the story was how well-to-do private landowners were denying access to poverty stricken public. The person answering the door was mortified they were splashed over national TV. People have a right to privacy and to be free from sleezy media people, or those thinking it's OK to use covert footage to take the p*ss out of people on air. It's not OK.

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