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Electoral Commission Decision Misguided, Says TRN

10 October 2008

Electoral Commission Decision Misguided, Says TRN

The Radio Network says the Electoral Commission is badly misguided in deciding to refer an alleged transgression of the Electoral Finance Act by Newstalk ZB to the Police for possible prosecution.

"This decision simply lacks practicality or commonsense," said The Radio Network's general manager talk programming Bill Francis.

"On the basis of this decision, there are clearly serious implications for all media in terms of what people say and is broadcast or recorded in print."

The commission acted on a complaint about Newstalk ZB talkback broadcasts hosted by Winston Peters and Shane Jones in June 2008. In each of the programmes the hosts very briefly implied listeners should vote for their respective parties, and the commission said there was no evidence that either programme contained a promoter statement at any time.

"We are extremely surprised that the Electoral Commission has come to the view that there has been a transgression of the Electoral Finance Act and the Broadcasting Act in the context of the broadcasts concerned," said Bill Francis.

"The programmes were aimed at providing information and entertainment, with which the commission agreed, and the comments being investigated comprised just a few seconds within broadcasts spanning three and a half hours. In each case, the comments were one-liners - just throw-away lines.

Commonsense has not prevailed in this situation unfortunately."


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