By Anthony Sheridan
Newstalk has responded to my complaint regarding comments by George Hook. I include the response below and my reply.
Apologies once again for the delayed response to your complaint.
Having reviewed the programme in question and considered your complaint I do not believe that the segment referred to is in breach of our obligations under the Codes of Fairness, Objectivity and Impartiality in News and Current Affairs.
The Right Hook, the programme from which the segment is taken is not a news programme and George Hook is not a news reporter/presenter. The remit of his programme is broad current affairs. Section 21 of the Code does therefore not apply.
Section 22 as you note contends that ‘It is an important part of the role of a presenter of a current affairs programme to ensure that the audience has access to a wide variety of views on the subject of the programme or item; to facilitate the expression of contributors‘ opinions – sometimes by forceful questioning; and to reflect the views of those who cannot, or choose not to, participate in content. This being so, a presenter and/or a reporter on a current affairs programme shall not express his or her own views on matters that are either of public controversy or the subject of current public debate such that a partisan position is advocated’.
In the segment under discussion George Hook did not express his opinion such that a partisan position was being advocated. He expressed a perspective on the subject in question, a perspective that while suggested by many interactions of the programme may not otherwise have been heard.
Furthermore his expression of this perspective was in the context of a regular editorial delivered by him every evening at 4.30pm. As section 23 of the Code specifies such ‘personal view’ or ‘authored’ current affairs segments ‘can be appropriate, subject to normal editorial controls …. [especially] if part of a series of related segments/programmes which, taken together, will discharge the statutory obligations’. Listeners to this programme would have been very aware of this context and the content I believe did discharge the statutory obligations.
In summary, I do not believe that the programme in question breached our obligations under the Code.
I do not agree with your conclusions. I have already forwarded my complaint to BAI and will forward your response to the authority today.