So they have done it. Mediaworks have terminated Sean Plunket’s employment on Magic Talk. There will have been a handsome payout for Plunket, never fear, but the whole thing was an overreaction of epic proportions. It seems it all came down to the conversation John Banks had with a listener, who called Maori a ‘Stone Age culture’. Let’s face it, the caller was only making a statement that we all know to be true, but nevertheless, Banks was pilloried for not shutting the caller down quickly enough, and Banks has been removed from Magic Talk, never to return.
You may have thought that would be the end of the matter, but no. Sean Plunket, who wasn’t even on air at the time of the conversation, has now been terminated by the broadcaster as well. He is staying quiet about the circumstances – probably a condition of his golden handshake – but as he was still on holiday at the time of the incident, it cannot have had anything to do with that. Well… nothing directly anyway. The best that anyone seems to be able to come up with is that Plunket is ‘controversial’. Yes, he is, but Mediaworks knew that when they employed him 3 years ago. This is clearly a case of firing someone, not because they have done something wrong, but because they MIGHT do something wrong in the future. No wonder Mediaworks had to pay him a substantial amount of money to buy his silence, but I suspect, if we know Plunket, we will hear all the details sooner or later.
It seems that the reason why Mediaworks fired Plunket is because they became ‘rattled’ by the accusations of racism aimed at John Banks.
Former MediaWorks managers say Sean Plunket’s departure shows the network is rattled and the future of Magic Talk is uncertain.
His departure followed public condemnation of Magic Talk, after fill-in presenter John Banks failed to challenge a racist caller’s diatribe against Maori. Plunket was not involved in that incident, but had previously been accused of airing racism.
After the Banks incident, some advertisers threatened a boycott of Magic Talk.
Former MediaWorks news boss Mark Jennings said the company appeared to have decided it no longer had the energy to defend its more controversial hosts.
”I think the John Bank’s incident has probably made Mediaworks hugely risk averse,” he said.
“I suspect they are worried about Sean being the next big risk. He is a broadcaster who says what he thinks, and he has been a bit of a maverick right through his career.”Stuff.
So now you can fire someone for what they might say in the future? Wow. That is an interesting precedent, which I would love to test in the Employment Court.
It’s all about the advertisers, of course. Vodafone, Kiwibank and NZ Cricket all threatened to pull out of Magic Talk, but it seems the promise that Banks will not return has settled them down, and now none of the advertisers are threatening to leave. Phew. Didn’t Mediaworks dodge a bullet there?
Here is a bullet they didn’t dodge though.
Magic Talk was set up to attract conservative listeners, who have few choices these days. Apart from Mike Hosking, Newstalk ZB becomes more and more woke by the day, and their talkback shows, presented by the lightweight Kerre Woodham and the bromance team of Gifford and Barnett are very uncontroversial. In fact, these days, they are boring in the extreme.
So Mediaworks deliberately hired hosts with conservative views, to attract a specific audience and they succeeded. Lots of conservatives listen to Magic Talk, and lots of them like Sean Plunket. Personally, I don’t particularly like him, but many people do. He can be controversial at times, which is precisely why he was hired.
What do you think will happen to that audience now? Do you think they will stick with radio hosts who are terrified of their own shadow, or do you think they will switch to somewhere more woke? I suspect they won’t do either. I suspect they will leave Magic Talk in droves.
So, in an attempt to appease their advertisers, Magic Talk has almost certainly antagonised a large part of their audience. In the long run, this will mean that the advertisers will leave anyway, because there is no point in advertising on a radio show where no one is listening.
Well done Mediaworks. I suspect it will not be around for much longer, and although this will be seen as a victory to the woke brigade, never forget that conservatives are a large part of the community and they are still out there. As always happens, when a gap in a market appears, someone will fill it. Clearly though, Mediaworks loss will be someone else’s gain… someone not afraid to allow a radio host to speak his mind, hopefully.
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