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Tamihere challenged as complaints mount

Thu 2 Jul 2009 In: New Zealand Daily News View at Wayback View at NDHA

The NZ AIDS Foundation has thrown down the gauntlet to homophobic talkback host John Tamihere, suggesting that if he is serious about the need to stem the spread of HIV he is welcome to meet with NZAF staff to discuss ways that he could assist the Foundation in its work against HIV. John Tamihere Tamihere has been the subject of a number of formal complaints to the Broadcasting Standards Authority following his most recent Radio Live tirade about gays, HIV and the NZ AIDS Foundation. The lengthy 16 June afternoon broadcast included phone-in callers as well as guest co-host and high-profile Auckland restrauteur Leo Molloy. The pair kept up a mutual tirade of abusive terms for gays, inaccurate information about the NZAF and HIV and relentlessly negative characterisations of gay men's lives. They were dismissive of efforts by gay men and the NZAF to halt the spread of HIV, which last year reached the highest ever annual number of newly diagnosed infections contracted by gay and bi men in New Zealand. Tamihere has a long history of broadcasting anti-gay abuse and his latest episode was triggered the temporary identity suppression of the Auckland man charged with knowingly exposing several sexual partners to HIV infection. The BSA says complaints go to the broadcaster first, "so we're not aware of the total number that have been made." However, BSA Chief Executive Dominic Sheehan says if people use the BSA's online complaints form the watchdog organisation receives a copy "and so we are aware that a number of people have actually made a complaint." Complainants have until 14 July, twenty working days from the date of the broadcast, to lodge a complaint with Radio Live, part of the Mediaworks organisation which includes the TV3 and C4 TV channels and is currently home to glbt-positive broadcaster Maggie Barry. In his Sunday News column last weekend Tamihere repeated the essence of his broadcast, saying that the complaints received are "essentially the same - indicating an organised response." Sheehan says the BSA has not yet seen the full range of complaints  so couldn't comment, "but in any case, whether this is an 'organised response' is not the issue here - the issue is whether that broadcast breached the broadcasting standards in the Radio Code." The NZAF says it contacted the Sunday News and has been offered an opportunity to respond to Tamihere's column and correct inaccuracies which it is likely to take up. The Foundation has lodged a complaint against Tamihere and Radio Live in the past, but says it has decided Tamihere's audience is too small to warrant the diversion of resources to preparing complaints. "This show consistently has a mere 2 to 3% share of the total audience listening to radio for this timeslot," says Executive Director Rachael Le Mesurier. "With such a tiny audience it is highly unlikely that many people from the communities that the NZAF serves will be listening to Mr Tamihere's uniformed and homophobic tirades," she says. "It is even more unlikely that anyone from the communities most at risk of HIV is likely to stop using condoms and lube, or avoid getting an HIV test because a talkback radio host uses inaccurate information to provoke an emotional response from a conservative audience." Whilst the Foundation itself will not be formally complaining, Le Mesurier says it is supportive of any of its "many staff of diverse sexualities and genders" who want to lodge complaints in a private capacity and to this end has provided "information and access to the BSA's online complaints system" Meantime, the NZAF says it can can provide "the most accurate, up to date and robust scientific evidence on the HIV epidemic in New Zealand," and would welcome the opportunity to meet with with Tamihere "to discuss ways that he could assist us in our mission." Explaining the BSA complaints process, Dominic Sheehan says any complaint must be sent to the broadcaster which will decide whether or not to uphold the complaint and if so what action is appropriate. "They have twenty working days from receiving the complaint to give the complainant a response. If at all unhappy with the response or the action taken the complainant, or complainants, then have twenty working days to refer the complaint to the BSA. The BSA board of four will then decide whether the decision by the broadcaster or the action taken was correct. If the board decides to uphold a complaint they can make orders, most commonly they might order the broadcaster to read a statement on air or to pay costs for breaching the standards." Sheehan says if standards are breached, "responsible broadcasters tend to do their best to ensure it doesn't happen again."    

Credit: Daily News staff

First published: Thursday, 2nd July 2009 - 10:47pm

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