Apology not enough to stop advertisers walking away from RadioLive – UPDATED

ANZ, Countdown, Briscoes and Yellow have gone public about withdrawing advertising from RadioLive after an interview by the station’s hosts Willie Jackson and John Tamihere with a caller ‘Amy’ who said she was friends with an alleged victim of the Roastbusters gang.

The group of Auckland males allegedly had group sex with teenage girls, then bragged about it online.

Among the questions asked in the RadioLive interview were how the girl’s parents consented to her going out as a 14-year-old until 3am, whether she was forced to drink at parties and whether she should be drinking, why it took her until that afternoon to say the alleged incident happened, and, “that’s why I’m getting a bit confused here right. The girls like them, the girls think they’re handsome, the girls go out with them, then you say they get raped, right?”

Jackson later apologised over the handling of the caller. “I just want to reiterate that again, absolutely don’t condone the actions of the Roastbusters or any violence against women,” he said in station audio. “We have no problem apologising to Amy for causing offence.”

RadioLive also apologised for causing any offence. The station’s website carried the statement: “Willie Jackson this afternoon apologised for yesterday’s handling of a caller, claiming to be a friend of an alleged rape victim. We’ve got the utmost respect for ‘Amy’ for speaking out about her experience in what was an incredibly brave interview. Again, RadioLIVE apologises for any offence it caused.”

ANZ took to its Facebook page over the scandal, saying, “Hi Everyone, this is a quick update to let you know that we have decided to suspend our advertising with Radio Live due to comments made by hosts Willie Jackson & John Tamihere concerning a sensitive issue that has been in the media recently.

“While we believe that freedom of speech is an important part of the media, we also believe that it comes with responsibilities & the mark has been overstepped here.”

Countdown did the same, saying on its page: “Countdown does not condone the comments made on Radio Live on the Jackson/Tamihere show. We have now had the opportunity to review our advertising activity, and have withdrawn advertising from this radio station.”

Briscoes followed suit today, with this Facebook message: “Thank you everyone for your feedback. We would like to clarify that yesterday we immediately pulled all advertising from the Willie & JT show and this morning we have cancelled all our advertising with RadioLive until further notice. We are not a company that wants to be in any way associated with the unacceptable actions of these presenters. The Team at Briscoes”

Yellow tweeted that it had stopped its advertising with Radio Live “after comments by Willie Jackson & John Tamihere on a very serious issue. For us, it crossed the line.”

Suzanne Wolton, head of customer relations at AA Insurance, told StopPress it wasn’t a sponsor of the Willie and JT show, but one of is ads ran during “the controversial segment on Tuesday 5 November”.

“In light of the way the interview was conducted and the subsequent apology, we are removing all advertising from this programme pending our full review,” she said.

Freeview general manager Sam Irvine said his company had shifted its ads away from Jackson and Tamihere’s show.

“We looked at our brand values and they didn’t align with the discussion on that show at this time,” he said.

MediaWorks spokesperson Rachel Lorimer says it can’t comment on clients’ advertising campaigns, but reiterated its apology
and that it in no way condones that actions of the ‘Roast Busters’ or any violence against women.

Willie Jackson and John Tamihere have apologised and remain on air,” she says.

The ‘Roast Busters’ is an important developing news story and one that RadioLIVE will continue to cover.”

She says RadioLive has “placed all non-news coverage” under extra editorial scrutiny. It has also decided to run Jackson and Tamihere’s show commercial free today and all of next week.

“Our clients are extremely important to us, and we respect their opinions,” Lorimer says.

Wellington blogger Giovanni Tiso has been trying to contact companies that advertise on the show. He tweeted a link to a Google document  “with the list of Willie & JT advertisers I contacted”, asking for it to be shared.

The spreadsheet said the Mad Butcher, AA Insurance and Freeview were pulling ads from the show, while Yellow was pulling ads from the station. Telecom, Vodafone and The Finance Marshall had also withdrawn support, it said, but it’s not clear whether those were removing ads from the station or just from the show. 

A tweet from the RadioLive newsroom said Telecom had pulled advertising.

Tiso told StopPress he found the interview with Amy truly upsetting and was disgusted that Jackson and Tamihere would return to the air the next day. He says he decided to “make some noise with advertisers”.

“I waited until the show was finished and replayed the bits with the ads, recording all the sponsors. I should stress that I’m not a great believer in consumer boycotts per se. One could have a long discussion about the meaning of the phrase ‘ethical business decision’. I was more in it for the disruption. This is fundamentally a story about indifference: of the police, of the media, of politicians and the wider society. So anything that might bother these people a bit would have to be good.”

Tiso tweeted: “MAD BUTCHER just got in touch. They are removing ads from Willie and JT to other shows on @RadioLIVENZ

“The quote from Mad Butcher’s CEO Michael Morton, in full”, Tiso tweeted over three messages: “I have instructed that The Mad Butcher advertising schedule be removed……from the Willie and JT show to elsewhere on Radio Live effective immediately, and will review this matter with MediaWorks……when I return to Auckland next week.”

StopPress has sought comment from the the Mad Butcher.

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