New Zealand Law Society - BSA upholds radio "prison prank" complaint

BSA upholds radio "prison prank" complaint

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The Broadcasting Standards Authority has upheld a complaint about a radio show where the Prime Minister was a studio guest during a segment that alluded to prison rape.

The radio prank occurred in December last year on the high rating Mediaworks station, The Morning Rumble.

What happened On-Air

The Broadcasting Standards Authority says The Rock Morning Rumble included a stunt featuring the Prime Minister, in which he was invited to enter a cage installed in the studio and 'pick up the soap'.

Upon the Prime Minister doing so, the host quoted a recognised rape scene from the film Deliverance, saying, 'You've got a pretty little mouth Prime Minister'.

The Authority upheld a complaint that the stunt amounted to a deliberate reference to prison rape that had the effect of trivialising sexual violence and specifically prison rape.

While the segment was allegedly intended to be humorous, which is an important aspect of the exercise of free speech, the stunt overstepped the boundaries of legitimate humour and was offensive.

The Authority found that listeners and members of the public would likely have found the segment offensive and unacceptable, and that involving the Prime Minister had the potential to attract a wider audience.

For the same reasons the Authority found the segment was not socially responsible. The Authority did not, however, uphold the complaint under the law and order standard.

The Broadcasting Standards Authority found the stunt breached two Radio Code standards. They include 'good taste and decency' and 'responsible programming'.


Pursuant to section 13(1)(a) of the Act, the Authority orders MediaWorks Radio Ltd to broadcast a statement. The statement shall:

  • Be broadcast within one month of the date of this decision
  • Be broadcast during The Rock Morning Rumble
  • Be broadcast at a time and date to be approved by the Authority
  • Contain a comprehensive summary of the upheld aspects of the Authority's decision.

The Authority draws the broadcaster's attention to the requirement in section 13(3)(b) of the Act for the broadcaster to give notice to the Authority of the manner in which the above order has been complied with.

Pursuant to section 16(4) of the Act, the Authority orders MediaWorks Radio Ltd to pay to the Crown costs in the amount of $1,000 within one month of the date of the decision.

The order for costs will be enforceable in the Wellington District Court.

Read the full report here.

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