Monday, 23 October 2006

State Radio forced to pay costs for Tennisgate IV

State radio broadcaster, Radio NZ has been ordered to pay $7000 in costs, after the Broadcasting Standards Authority upheld a complaint by MP David Benson-Pope that an interview they carried was "unfair".

Radio New Zealand broadcast an anonymous interview with a former Bayfield High School student, who alleged Benson-Pope - a former Associate Minister of Education - bullied students while working as a teacher at Dunedin's Bayfield High School in the 80s.

Benson-Pope asked for over $20,000 in costs, but the BSA ordered the State radio broadcaster pay $5,000 to the Government MP, plus another $2,000 to the Crown.

The anonymous interview with a male student was broadcast on the Radio NZ's "Nine to Noon" show. The man alleged Benson-Pope enjoyed giving corporal punishment, laughing as he caned students until drawing blood. The former pupil described Benson-Pope as a "nasty bastard" and "a liar".

Many other students came forward with similar allegations of bullying, including Benson-Pope's unusual tennis ball fetish... the former teacher used to throw tennis balls at his students, and jam tennis balls in their mouths as punishment.

It was also alleged he taped students' hands to the desk, and smacked one student in the face so hard he made their nose bleed.

The allegations came to light following the launch of an "anti bullying campaign" by the then-Associate Minister of Education.

However, the BSA didn't uphold the complaint that the Radio NZ programme was unbalanced, and declined to determine whether the programme was inaccurate.

Dunedin Police last year found a prima facie case against the former teacher-turned-politician for at least two bullying events, but announced they wouldn't be prosecuting the Labour MP.

Meanwhile, the BSA declined to uphold a second Benson-Pope complaint against State TV broadcaster, TV One. It said an item screened on One News alleging Benson-Pope had treated female Bayfield High School students inappropriately was not unbalanced, unfair, or inaccurate.

Those allegations included the former teacher staring at female students' legs, and making them stand outside at night during a school camp, wearing just nighties. Benson-Pope had no comment to make about either BSA decision.

* Stuff: Radio NZ 'unfair' to Benson-Pope over bully allegations

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