BSA rejects complaints about Plunket’s comments on Catton

The Broadcasting Standards Authority has declined to uphold two complaints about Radio Live host Sean Plunket calling author Eleanor Catton an “ungrateful hua.”

Mr Plunket made the comments after Ms Catton said New Zealand is dominated by “neo-liberal, profit-obsessed, very shallow, very money-hungry politicians who do not care about culture” at an Indian literary festival in January.

She also said she feels uncomfortable being an ambassador for New Zealand because it isn’t doing as much as it can for the intellectual world and is guilty of “tall poppy syndrome.”

The BSA says it received complaints that Mr Plunket’s comments constituted “bullying” and a personal attack on Catton.

The media watchdog noted “the severity of [Plunket’s] attack and the hostility and aggression of the language used… raised the question of whether this attack went too far.”

But it ruled Mr Plunket’s comments did not breach broadcasting standards.

“Eleanor Catton was powerfully exercising her right to freedom of expression and has had to suffer the responses including those from the broadcaster,” the decision says.

“Conversely, the broadcaster has exercised its right to freedom of expression and it will have suffered consequences from those who objected to what Mr Plunket said and the way in which he said it.

“This is how we think things are meant to work in a liberal democracy. We do not think that our society would be better off if views such as those of the radio host were staunched.”

The BSA said Mr Plunket’s comments were expected in talkback radio.

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