Does this set a dangerous precedent?

The BSA has released its findings on Mike Hosking’s final word from Seven Sharp on the waitress at the center of the ponytail incident involving the prime minister earlier in the year.

First, watch the monologue and then read the finding

The Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) upheld four complaints that comments made by Mike Hosking about the ponytail incident involving the Prime Minister and a waitress were unfair to the waitress.

Mr Hosking said the waitress’ motivations for speaking out were ‘selfish’ and ‘a puffed up self-involved pile of political bollocks’. He also said the café owners were the ‘victims’ of the situation.

The Authority upheld the complaints that these comments were unfair to the waitress. The comments were made in Mr Hosking’s ‘final word’ segment, where he gives his views on a chosen topic often in a provocative manner. The Authority said the nature of this segment meant there was no opportunity for any response or defence to be given.

While public figures can generally expect to be the subject of robust scrutiny or criticism, the Authority found the waitress was not a public figure in the usual sense, despite her story being made public.

‘In reaching these findings we do not mean to say anything about the rights or wrongs of the ponytail incident… [A] person who is not a public figure should be able to speak up and make assertions whether they are right or wrong without being treated unfairly and in an intimidatory way by a television presenter speaking from the platform of a powerful broadcaster’, the Authority said.

The Authority held publication of the decision was sufficient to mark the breach and did not make any order.

What I find concerning about this decision is that the BSA appears to be suggesting that someone who isn’t a public figure should be able to say or do anything politically in public and ultimately be protected from scrutiny by media commentators, or at least those with a powerful platform.

Irrespective of this particular incident, should media commentators be able to have an opinion and make comment about individuals involved in issues of public interest? Would the removal of their ability to do so reduce how robust our debate is?

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About the author

Regan is one of the co-founders of Throng Media.
If they're on, I'm usually watching Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, 24, Battlestar Galactica, The X Factor, Survivor, House of Cards, Mad Men and the NRL.
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