Sean Plunket resigns from BSA

Sean Plunket says "I became increasingly concerned about not just other people’s behaviour on Twitter, but also my own.”

Controversial BSA appointee Sean Plunket sounds off on what he thinks is wrong with social media (October 12 audio)

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UPDATE Oct 13: Sean Plunket has resigned from the BSA.

"In the interests of the smooth running of the Broadcasting Standards Authority I have chosen to resign my position as a member of the BSA Board. I wish the board well in its important work in ensuring that the broadcast media in this country adhere to practices which do not harm society in general or individuals in particular," Mr Plunket said in a statement issued by the authority.

"Sean Plunket is an experienced journalist and broadcaster whose contributions are part of the recent fabric of broadcasting.  We respect Sean’s decision to resign from his position on the board in the best interests of the authority. We wish him well for the future," BSA chairman Peter Radich says.

There will naturally be speculation that Mr Plunket was encouraged to resign by the board.

And indeed, the board might not have been too keen on his continued tenure.

However, the controversial ex-broadcaster told NBR Radio's Grant Walker on Thursday – off the record – that he was considering throwing in the towel before his fellow directors had even met.

UPDATE Oct 12: BSA board meets under urgency to discuss Sean Plunket situation

NBR contacted Broadcasting Standards Authority chief executive Belinda Moffat this afternoon to ask if she retained confidence in recent BSA appointee Sean Plunket.

Ms Moffat did not answer that question directly, instead stating the BSA board would meet to discuss "his tweets and other matters that are in circulation" with urgency.

She could not give a timeline or comment further, and declined a recorded interview.

Mr Plunket was recently appointed by Broadcasting Minister Maggie Barry as a BSA board member, a responsibility that includes sitting on a four-person board that assesses complaints.

Ms Moffat did confirm that Mr Plunket would not participate in the meeting about his various recent controversies (see below). 

That will leave the remaining three board members to consider his fate: chairman Peter Radich, Te Raumawhitu Kupenga and Paula Rose.

Ms Moffat joined the BSA in May last year. She previously worked at the Financial Markets Authority as director of enforcement and investigations.

Plunket's version
Mr Plunket fielded a call from NBR but would not comment on the board meeting. But he did say he always planned to delete his Twitter account upon joining the BSA (he has yet to hear a case).

And while some have taken offence at over the past few months at Mr Plunket's front-foot tweets and language, in an NBR Radio interview he paints himself as the aggrieved party and says things need to change.

"We have to have a pretty careful think as a society, where we join the boundaries not just for publically appointed officials but for all people – and ask whether the current settings, or particularly the media's current predilection for cruising Twitter and taking private comments and making them into news stories; isn't that the equivalent of eavesdropping in a pub?," he says.

As an example, he points to NBR's use of a tweet by Privacy Commissioner John Edwards, who posted to Mr Plunket (after a series of tweets by Mr Plunket directed at NZ Herald columnist Lizzie Marvelly): "I really don't understand why you get off trolling a young woman." NBR described that as a ticking off by the Privacy Commissioner.

Mr Plunket complains he had to go to the commissioner's office to request a clarification that Mr Edwards' tweet was not any kind of official sanction.

A mea culpa, of sorts
The ex-broadcaster also offers a self-critique, saying "I became increasingly concerned about not just other people’s behaviour on Twitter but also my own.”

He adds, “I looked at the effect that social media was having on the way I dialogued and interacted with people and I asked myself the question: Is this spilling over into my other interactions? And I decided that it was – and not in a good or positive way. So I decided to take myself out of that equation."

BSA chief executive Belinda Moffat

EARLIER: BSA director Sean Plunket suspends Twitter account after Weinstein post
Broadcasting Standards Authority director Sean Plunket suspended his Twitter account following yet another social media controversy – this time involving a tweet in support of embattled Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.

Mr Weinstein is accused of harassing or sexually assaulting at least 13 women between the 1990s and 2015 and has admitted to groping and made a number of payouts.

Mr Plunket jumped into the fray yesterday afternoon by tweeting:

ABOVE: The controversial tweet. Mr Plunket remains on Facebook, where he has a public account. There, he posted an explanatory note which reads: "Twitter account deleted permanently. We have a major issue with social media in this country ... I feel like the haters and group thinkers have won and I've failed at trying to have more nuanced and constructive conversations."

The tweet was met with a mix of droll humour and abuse – though even some who snarled back theorised that the ex-broadcaster could be “trolling” or amusing himself by trying to get a rise from foes.

In one of his final tweets before deleting his account, Mr Plunket said he had in fact been conducting a social experiment.

Freelance journalist Jessica McAllen replied that would be a good excuse for anyone hauled in front of the BSA.

Mr Plunket, who has previously been before the BSA after his hua/whore attack on author Eleanor Catton, was recently appointed by Broadcasting Minister Maggie Barry to the four-person panel that considers complaints put to the authority.

During the election campaign, Mr Plunket served as communications director for Gareth Morgan’s TOP party – a role that saw him launch colourful attacks on the NZ Herald, Spinoff and NBR journalists, often using more X-rated than nuanced and constructive arguments.

Mr Plunket is also being investigated by police over a September 23 tweet that the Electoral Commission says was a breach of Electoral Act prohibitions on election day campaigning and broadcasting. His previous attacks notwithstanding, NBR actually backs the ex-broadcaster on that issue.


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10 Comments & Questions

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"All the haters don't like me."
Well, you know what they say: if you can't handle the heat, get out of the kitchen.

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The real puzzle to many is why Plunket was thought a suitable choice in the first place?

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this is the end result of a petty minded lynch mob.

A bunch of shameful, spiteful, hateful small minded nobodies who like to join a pile-on for the pleasure of taking the high moral ground.

Sean should not have buckled. If you give in mobs you only embolden them.

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There's an element of that here, sure. But I also think he's been hoist by his own petard. He clearly took great pleasure in purposefully riling people on social media. All well and good, I guess, as a private citizen; pretty counterproductive as a comms professional for a political party, I would've thought, but in the end that was between him and Gareth Morgan. But surely he should've realised he needed to reign it in when accepting a role with the BSA that would involve him passing judgement on others' conduct? The lack of judgement involved in not doing so is a strong indication he wasn't fit for purpose.

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that is correct but the tweet itself was pretty mild. He didn't condone Weinstein's behavior or diminish his alleged crimes.

I accept we're in a world where a single tweet can damage your career and people who live in the public square should accept it but still annoys me.

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SP was constantly trying to pick fights and badger people on social media (and, with journalists, on the phone). His personality might have served him well on talkback radio, but he seemed temperamentally unsuited to sitting on the BSA's board and complaints panel.

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Lets face it as much as I like Plunket, if he was female he would be called hormonal, bitchy, moody, erratic....

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That'll be going straight on the Linked In CV...

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Something said "off the record" gets reported. What does "off the record" mean?

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NBR's pledge not to publish his decision to resign, as he had said it off the record, was superceded by his decision to put his resignation on the public record.

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