A Word from our Sponsor by Trevor Plumbly
An interesting situation has arisen down here that I reckon is worth some sort of comment. Late last year, a group of teenagers calling themselves ‘The Roast Busters’ crowed on a social media site of having sexual contact with intoxicated under-age girls. The police investigation into the matter could kindly be described as bumbling, and seems destined to remain so; it was only the public outcry that caused them to take a serious interest in the matter. The alleged offences were obnoxious by any standard and exacerbated by the on-line boasting and apparent lack of remorse by the boys involved. Their actions and the effect of them on their victims will, I don’t doubt, be discussed at great length if the case ever reaches criminal prosecution status. So going into the alleged details doesn’t seem to serve any useful purpose at this stage.
What’s more interesting is the flow-on effect: the police swiftly ducked behind the ‘insufficient evidence’ barrier to start with, and then embarrassingly discovered that an underage girl had made a complaint about the boys some time before, but that complaint hadn’t been regarded as worth pursuing. So an originally minor investigation became a very public affair with the obligatory hand-wringing apologies and vague promises from high ranking officers. As is their wont, the media harvested every scrap to feed the prurient, holding ‘live’ and ‘exclusive’ interviews with everyone from remote relatives to giggling schoolmates. Talkback radio was at the forefront, entreating the armchair experts to phone in and offer their valued opinion on the subject, and such is the nature of that particular beast, there was no shortage of inhibited intellect. As I’ve said before, talkback hosts are largely ringmasters, more interested in cracking the whip than making any real contribution. Two such hosts are Willie Jackson and John Tamihire, they’re both personable, entertaining and, as talkback radio requires, provoking, with a highly rated and award winning show.
During a show that featured the ‘Roast Busters’ topic, they received a call from a young woman who was then asked direct questions about her sexual history, which roused public outrage. Why, I don’t know; regardless of your age, talkback radio isn’t the place to go to for discreet conversation. The following day the proverbial hit the fan, the fearless talkback station slipped into damage control and morphed into maiden aunt mode, hosts either opted for the comfort zone or were instructed to totally avoid the topic. Major sponsors joined in the game by withdrawing advertising and as a result Jackson and Tamihire were required to offer on-air apologies and were then suspended. Jackson’s contract was renewed, but Tamihire’s wasn’t and he is currently engaged in a legal dispute with the radio station.
Sadly, I doubt if any positives can come from this saga: the police have moved from a casual approach to a sort of cryptic method of reporting lack of progress, the boys concerned still seem capable of bagging news space whenever they feel the need, the victims will, I think, remain just that and silence is probably the best friend they’ve got just now. Jackson and Tamihire have lost a partnership that truly worked and the radio station has lost a lot of credibility; when you allow major advertisers to dictate on-air comment and content, labelling yourself part of the news media is not only a joke, it’s positively scary.