11 Sep 2014

Court asked to overturn Planet Key ban

8:32 pm on 11 September 2014

The lawyer for the creators of a satirical song and video lampooning the Prime Minister says the ban on it should be overturned because it is legitimate artistic expression and everyone has the right to take part in political debate.

A screenshot of Darren Watson's Planet Key video

A screenshot of Darren Watson's Planet Key video Photo: DARREN WATSON

The Electoral Commission last month declared the song Planet Key an election advertisement, which means it can not be played on radio, television or online without a statement declaring singer-songwriter Darren Watson is a promoter.

Wendy Aldred, who is representing Mr Watson and video-maker Jeremy Jones, told the High Court in Wellington today that the commission had failed to consider their right to freedom of expression.

She said the song was clearly satirical, and no one hearing it or seeing the Monty Python-style video would take it literally as an instructive public announcement.

Ms Aldred said the song had been picked by various radio stations because of its artistic merit, and a promoter statement would introduce a jarring note of formality.

The Electoral Act was not designed to pick up self-funded artistic endeavours, she said.

Ms Aldred told the court the restriction is like a blanket ban on anything critical of the Government, except for authorised party broadcasts.

However the commission's lawyer, Austin Powell, said that is not the case.

"The important words are that encourages or persuades or appears to encourage or persuade people to vote. That has to be looked at in a rights consistent manner. And if it is, then the only speech that will be caught by it is speech which has that effect."

Speaking after the hearing, Darren Watson said the ban on iTune sales was costing him money, but he was also concerned with the principle of freedom of speech.

"If a piece of work speaks against something, it should be allowed to be out there on both sides of the political spectrum ... let them stand on their own merits or not."

Mr Watson said if the ruling goes against him, he may consider further legal action.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs