The Labour Party is feeling vindicated after the Electoral Commission decided an hour-long radio show hosted by Prime Minister John Key last September broke the law. The EC are understood to have referred the matter to police. RadioLive could face fines of up to $100,000 if it is found guilty of breaching the Broadcasting Act.
The PM hosted ‘The Prime Minister’s Hour’ less than two months before the general election. During it Key repeatedly claimed it was “an election-free zone”. However, the Electoral Commission obviously weren’t convinced. Despite the Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) outright dismissing a complaint from the Labour Party, the EC has decided it in fact an election programme, which was prohibited at the time.
Labour deputy leader Grant Robertson told Fairfax the show gave Key an advantage in the election campaign.”What this gave the Prime Minister was an unfettered hour of radio in which he could put across himself, align himself with the people he called his friends and be in a situation close to the election where he had that hour when he was in an unfettered environment, that gave him a lot of power at that time.
“At the time that the BSA decision came out we disagreed with it, we felt that this was a clear breach of election broadcasting law and that it was unfair.”
Although Robertson admits one good thing to have come out of the whole shenanigans is that “Coronation St is back at 7.30pm.”
RadioLive had sought advice from the Electoral Commission about the programme, and had been warned to be very careful. It may mount a legal defence against the ruling. RadioLive station manager Jana Rangooni says the company would go over the decision in detail today, telling 3News she was surprised by the decision, “especially in light of the fact the BSA decision last year about the PM’s Hour was contradictory to this one.
“We are surprised at the decision, and will fully cooperate with the police if and when they take the matter up.”
The Prime Minister has not yet commented on the issue. Stay tuned for the next exciting installment…