BSA rules against Mackay

Broadcaster Jamie Mackay.
Broadcaster Jamie Mackay.

Farming Show radio host Jamie Mackay has been found to have abused his position by allegedly threatening staff of a Queenstown bar with bad publicity and then broadcasting his grievances.

The Broadcasting Standards Authority said Mackay told an anecdote on the Farming Show, broadcast in January on Newstalk ZB, about his experience at The Waterfront Bar and Bistro in Queenstown.

"The comments were unrelated to the Farming Show and were, in our view, merely an opportunity for Mr McKay (sic) to retaliate and vent about his experience at the bar," the BSA said.

It found Mackay's comments were inappropriate, and upheld a complaint from bar owner Otago Casinos that the broadcast was unfair.

It considered publication of its decision to be a sufficient remedy.

Otago Casinos had said Mackay's comments were a distortion of the original event, and referred to security camera footage which showed Mackay and his companions being refused service due to intoxication and aggressive behaviour, the BSA said.

The complainant maintained Mackay had threatened bar staff with bad publicity.

The broadcaster had not disputed that allegation, apart from commenting: "There are differing accounts of the events as they occurred."

The BSA said that if the complainant's version was correct, "we think this behaviour took the broadcast even further beyond acceptable practice".

The BSA said Mackay's criticisms were to some extent moderated by a comment from his producer that there were "two sides to every story", and most listeners would have suspected there was a legitimate reason, most likely intoxication, for the bar's refusal to serve Mackay and his companions.

"Nevertheless, due to the host's naming of the bar, and the segment's overall tone of negativity and criticism, we think there was real potential for the broadcast to have a detrimental impact on the bar's business and commercial interests," the BSA ruling said.

While proper consideration had to be given to the right of freedom of expression, Mackay's comments had minimal value, the BSA said.

"We accept that it is commonplace for radio hosts to tell personal anecdotes as a means of engaging with their audience," the ruling said.

"However we think that here there was an undertone of revenge, and that the host went too far by naming the bar.

"He abused his position as the host of a radio programme in order to publicly criticise an identifiable business, to advance his own personal agenda."

The business had no opportunity to respond or mitigate the criticisms levelled against it.

Fairfax Media