New Zealand Law Society - BSA finds Hosking immigration comments 'free speech'

BSA finds Hosking immigration comments 'free speech'

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The Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) has found that comments made by broadcaster Mike Hosking in 2019 about two immigration policy decisions did not breach broadcasting standards.

Two complainants argued Mr Hosking made inflammatory and discriminatory remarks on his Mike’s Minute segment on his Newstalk ZB breakfast show.

Mr Hosking was discussing a Government decision in 2019 to scrap the Africa and Middle East family link refugee policy, which had prevented refugees from the Middle East and Africa from coming to New Zealand unless they already had family living here. He also discussed the reintroduction of a new parent visa category to come to New Zealand.

In its decision, the BSA acknowledged the complainants’ concerns that Mr Hosking’s choice of language was inflammatory and may have offended some listeners.

However, the BSA noted that under current broadcasting standards there is a high threshold for finding a broadcast encouraged discrimination or denigration in breach of broadcasting standards, because of the importance of the right to freedom of expression.

“The importance of freedom of expression means that a high level of condemnation, often with an element of malice or nastiness, will be necessary to conclude that a broadcast encouraged discrimination or denigration in breach of the standard.

“Comments will not breach the standard simply because they are critical of a particular group, because they offend people, or because they are rude; the Codebook recognises that allowing the free and frank expression of a wide range of views is a necessary part of living in a democracy,” the BSA said.

Overall, the BSA found that in this case, Mr Hosking’s tone was measured and balanced and he was offering his genuinely held opinion, rather than being malicious or nasty. The discussion and the topic also carried legitimate public interest.

In addition, the BSA noted Mr Hosking clearly qualified his comments which mitigated their potential impact.