8 Nov 2016

BSA orders compo after Hauraki DJs trick cricketer's mum

10:34 am on 8 November 2016

Radio Hauraki has been ordered to pay $4000 to an English cricketer's mother, whose phone call was broadcast live without her knowledge by breakfast DJs Matt Heath and Jeremy Wells.

Jeremy Wells, left, and Heath

Jeremy Wells, left, and Heath Photo: SUPPLIED / Radio Hauraki

The Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) has upheld a complaint from Deborah Stokes - whose son is New Zealand-born English cricketer Ben Stokes - finding that she was deceived and then ridiculed by the pair during the April broadcast.

The authority found Heath and Wells then aggravated the situation by "sarcastically" posting on social media about how remorseful they were, "while posting photos of them drinking in airport lounges and next to a swimming pool".

The pair, known for their on-air toilet humour and inappropriate antics, had been poking fun at cricketer Ben Stokes on their show when Mrs Stokes called in asking to speak to someone off-air so she could complain.

Heath assured her she was off-air, before going on to broadcast the conversation while pretending to take down her complaint.

After Mrs Stokes discovered what had happened, she made a formal complaint to station owner NZME, which upheld the complaint and offered her a remedy that included $3000 and an assurance that Heath and Wells had been "counselled".

However, Mrs Stokes rejected the offer and instead complained to the BSA after discovering the pair had been posting on social media and - in her words - "were never remorseful or apologetic" for what they did.

It ordered NZME to pay Mrs Stokes $4000 in compensation, and an additional $4000 in costs to the Crown - close to the maximum $5000 that can ordered in each category.

The amount reflected how serious the breach of broadcasting standards was, the authority said in its findings.

"Not only was Mrs Stokes unfairly deceived, and her reasonable expectation of privacy interfered with in a highly offensive manner, but this was aggravated by the hosts' conduct and ridicule of her after the broadcast, which gained international attention."

The authority also agreed with Mrs Stokes' claim that NZME created the false impression that Heath and Wells had been suspended, by telling media the pair had been "suitably reprimanded and are off air tomorrow" - when the only reason they were not on-air was because they were travelling to Las Vegas.

The BSA said it could not rule on subsequent replays of the original broadcasts, because Mrs Stokes had not supplied the replay dates.

"That being said, we consider the subsequent broadcasts compounded the harm caused by the initial item and further demonstrated a lack of recognition by the broadcaster of the serious issues in the original broadcast."

In at least one subsequent broadcast, Mrs Stokes "was again ridiculed and mocked", the authority said.

As well as the compensation and costs orders, the authority ordered NZME to broadcast and publish a statement acknowledging the breach of standards.

The Press Council upheld a separate complaint from Mrs Stokes in July, Matt Heath defended his actions in his regular column for the New Zealand Herald, also owned by NZME.

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