Monday, October 11, 2010

The fuss about Paul Henry

This has blown all out of proportion - it seems everyone's talking about it. Here's one article in particular.

His resignation is being framed as a "freedom of speech" issue. It's not.

If he had been charged with a crime for what he said, that would have been a freedom of speech issue. If he had been sued for something he said, that would also be a freedom of speech issue. If he had been fired for something he said in his own time, that would arguably also be a freedom of speech issue.

This is about something he said at work, as part of his job, representing his employer. This is about how he does his job, and whether that is acceptable for his employer.

In the article above, Wallace Chapman explains that, while he hates what Paul Henry said, his job should have been protected from any consequences of what he says. I have the opposite opinion. I have no problem with anything Paul Henry has said (though I never watched his show), and while i agree that all speech should be protected from legal consequences, employers should be able to direct employees in the way they do their job - including the way they represent their employer while at work.

There was nothing wrong with firing Paul Henry.


  1. Technically, he jumped.
    That said, he was paid to do his job. If his employer didn't like what he was saying, then there have been so many opportunities in the past in order to get rid of him or encourage him to stop saying those things.
    He was, in essence, a shock-jock. His purpose was to fire people up and get them to respond to what he was saying, thus leading to more people watching the show, thus giving TVNZ higher ratings and more money. TVNZ wouldn't have fired him if this was a situation that they could salvage.

  2. I suppose it's a fair point that it may have been TVNZ's fault that a misunderstanding developed over what TVNZ considered acceptable for a breakfast host, and that from this angle what happened may have been unfair on Paul Henry.

    I probably spoke more broadly than i meant, but at least the point i intended to make still stands, that it would not have been a breach of freedom of speech for TVNZ to restrict what Paul Henry was permitted to say on breakfast.

    Now when the broadcasting standards authority restricts what TVNZ can say on breakfast, that IS a breach of freedom of speech.