'Unprecedented barrage' of complaints after Roast Busters

Last updated 17:42 18/06/2014

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Radio Live faced an "unprecedented" barrage of complaints following John Tamihere and Willie Jackson's "Roast Busters" radio interview, the High Court has heard.

Roast Busters was the self-styled name of a group of West Auckland teenagers who published their sexual exploits online, leading to an extensive and on-going police investigation.

Tamihere is suing the radio station's parent company Mediaworks for a reported $620,000 after it did not renew his contract following the interview.

Mediaworks responded today by applying for a stay of proceedings, arguing that Tamihere's contract specified that disputes would go to arbitration, rather than straight to court.

The former Labour MP and his co-host Willie Jackson were stood down by Radio Live in November 2013 after they interviewed a caller who claimed to be a friend of an alleged victim of the Roast Busters.

Mediaworks lawyer Julian Miles, QC, told the court that after the interview the station received "an unprecedented barrage of complaints" - over 300 - and key advertisers began pulling their advertising.

An agreement was reached with the hosts that they would stop broadcasting for the rest of the year.

It was later announced that Jackson would return to Radio Live with new co-host Alison Mau.

Tamihere's $10,000-a-month contract was not renewed, which Tamihere said created the impression that he had been found guilty of wrong-doing and Jackson had not.

An internal Mediaworks investigation found that the pair had not breached broadcasting standards. 

Miles said Tamihere instructed his barrister to contact a number of advertisers with letters saying that the removal of their advertising was "detrimental" to his client. 

The letters asked the companies to supply copies of their "moral policy and or moral code" and to disclose their contributions to sexual abuse and violence charities.

Miles said the letters were "clearly not designed to assist with attempts to woo back the advertisers".

Justice Simon France reserved his decision on the stay application.

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