Songwriter 'gagged' over John Key parody

MICHAEL FOX, STACEY KIRK AND HAMISH RUTHERFORD
Last updated 18:07 12/08/2014

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The Electoral Commission has confirmed that it has blocked radio stations from playing the satirical Planet Key music video, and warns it may order the video be modified before it can be broadcast online.

Today singer-songwriter Darren Watson wrote on Facebook he had received a call from the commission and "it appears we may have been gagged".

Wellington's Radio Active had been told that playing the song potentially contravened the Electoral Act, and the station risked losing its broadcasting licence if it kept playing the song, Watson wrote.

This evening the commission confirmed that it viewed the Planet Key video as an "election programme" and so it could not be broadcast on radio or television.  

"There are strict rules in the Broadcasting Act 1989 that prohibit the broadcasting on radio and television of material by third parties that appears to encourage voters to vote or not to vote for a political party or candidate," Richard Thornton, the commission's communications and education advisor, said by email.

The commission also indicated it was considering whether the video was an election advertisement, which may force it to be modified before it can be broadcast online.

"If the video is an election advertisement it can still be published online. However, the video would need to include a promoter statement so that voters can see who has promoted it," Thornton said.

If the promoter will spend more than $12,300 on election advertisements in the three months leading up to the election, they need to register with the commission as a third party promoter.

"Radio Active in Wellington have decided to stop playing Planet Key. I have no beef with them for making that call," Watson wrote.

"I have a beef with the law that effectively means to all artists and musicians in this country you have no right to make a personal political statement through your art or to profit from it."

The prime minister was unbothered by the "quite professionally done" song, saying "it was anti-us, but as a parody it was OK, wasn't it?"

"The Electoral Commission will know the law and they [the radio station] probably can't play it in the same way that if we did one that was pro the government it would be seen as electoral advertising," Key said.

"But I take all of that sort of stuff in the spirit it was intended - they're certainly a lot more professional than the Dotcom video of people screaming and chanting at me."

Earlier, Labour leader David Cunliffe said the video was "quite clever", but it was nothing to do with the Labour Party and the party would respect the Electoral Commission's judgment.

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He said it was "pretty hard to suppress the internet", but didn't consider the video in the same light as recent controversial comments on Key.

"I thought it was mildly amusing, yes, I didn't think it was in the category of sledging," Cunliffe said.

Watson declined to comment when contacted as he was doing an exclusive television appearance on Saturday.

Fairfax Media has sought comment from Radio Active. 

- Stuff

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