Lawyers for John Tamihere sent letters to some of the
corporate sponsors who pulled radio advertising in the fallout
from a controversial Roast Busters interview.
The correspondence suggested the broadcaster's reputation had
been damaged by the sponsors' boycott of RadioLive and also
requested company policy and guidelines which led to the
decision to suspend advertising.
A number of sponsors such as Yellow, Telecom and ANZ pulled
advertising from the radio station after a social media
backlash provoked by an interview about the Roast Busters by
Tamihere and Willie Jackson with a caller who identified
herself as "Amy".
At one stage during the interview, Tamihere asked how old she
was when she lost her virginity. "How free and easy are you
kids these days out there?" he asked. "You now, you were,
like, 14, yeah?"
Both hosts agreed to stand down while the company dealt with
the fallout. Jackson was later reinstated but Tamihere's
contract was not renewed.
The MediaWorks' radio standards committee ruled the interview
did not breach broadcasting standards and Tamihere has now
filed a $620,000 lawsuit against the company that alleges
breach of contract and defamation.
The Herald can reveal that Tamihere's lawyers sent letters to
some of the corporate sponsors who pulled their advertising
from RadioLive asking for copies of the policy and guidelines
that led to the decision.
A spokesman for Telecom said the letter from Tamihere's
lawyers "suggested that, among other things, Telecom's
decision to remove advertising somehow harmed Mr Tamihere's
"In our response we completely rejected this assertion," said
the spokesman. "We remain comfortable with the decision made
at the time to temporarily withdraw our advertising. The
decision was made after listening to customer and community
views expressed over the handling of the Roast Buster issue.
We received strong support from our customers for making this
The spokesman said Telecom respected the right to freedom of
speech but "that right also extends to the choice of
advertisers as to where and when they advertise".
Vodafone and Countdown confirmed they had received legal
letters but declined to comment on the contents or their
response, while ANZ and the Briscoe Group said they did not
get letters. Other sponsors who pulled advertising did not
respond in time for publication.
Tamihere said he took "great umbrage" at companies "using
their chequebooks to determine the moral compass of this
The notion that major firms could use their financial clout
to determine the editorial policy of news organisations was
disturbing. "I find that unacceptable. That's why I've done
it and I'm not finished with them yet."