Sean Plunket leaves Mediaworks

They fired one racist host - now another host is shown the door

Update: Wednesday 10th February.

Sean Plunket has been axed from Mediaworks.

To be clear — this isn’t about free speech or being silenced. Sean always finds a platform, and he’ll find another.

This is about cleaning up a toxic station that left listeners and staff worse off. I feel pleased for the various Mediaworks staff members who talked to me for Webworm, who were left exhausted, belittled and made to feel “less than”. To you, I’ll raise a glass. And you should, too.

David.


Here in New Zealand, I’ve been talking to staff about Magic Talk, the toxic brand they’ve been enduring for years. At times it’s been hard for them to escape the station. For a period, Magic Talk literally followed them into the bathroom — broadcast into the staff toilets. So while those in the newsroom emptied their bowels, they had to endure the endless shit spewing from the speakers.

“Magic Talk was pumped into the bathroom so we all had to listen to homophobic, misogynistic, transphobic rhetoric all day long. I think I was particularly affected by stuff around young women and sexual assault. And he’d say this stuff on air then come out of little fucking studio and walk amongst all these young women he worked alongside.”

That staff member — who talked to me anonymously — is referring to a staff member who’s still employed there, and has been for years. But first, let’s talk about the host who got fired this week.


If you tie a dog to a tree & kick it, it’s going to bite you.

So John Banks is gone after one of the most racist diatribes I’ve ever heard on New Zealand radio. I’ve listened to the whole thing, and some of the worst stuff wasn’t even reported. At one point, when talking about Maori he said “If you tie a dog to a tree & kick it, it’s going to bite you”.

The wild thing was, his apology the next day (no doubt run past Mediaworks’ PR/Comms department) simply involved him denying he was racist.

“I also made some generic negative statements about Maori people & practices that could have been misconstrued as racist and I apologise for that, it’s not my intention. I’m not racist. I’m not racist.”

To clarify: John Banks is definitely racist.

John Banks has now been fired, but only after advertisers pulled their slots at an alarming rate. Mediaworks’ CEO Cam Wallace has now made it clear he would never return to air.

“Yesterday ... was a very tough day because of the events which played out on air on Magic Talk,” Wallace said in an email to staff.

“It’s extremely disappointing for all the committed staff who work here for this incident to occur. This type of behaviour is totally unacceptable and will never be tolerated.

“You will be aware of the steps we have taken to deal with this issue. For clarity, John Banks will no longer have a position on air or otherwise while I am CEO of MediaWorks.”

As far as damage control goes, it’s good. It’s a strong message, and I imagine a positive thing for staff to hear. But the question is — what will Cam actually do, besides firing one racist idiot? Because there are others.


The cancer at Magic Talk.

In a way, I fear that John Banks might just be a martyr for the station — in that sacrificing him, they think they can just keep on keeping on.

But John Banks wasn’t even that important to them. The former Auckland mayor was just called in to cover other people’s slots when they were off sick. He was the substitute teacher that was barely an employee. He was a pimple, not a cancer. So while it’s great he’s gone — he’s not the end of the problem.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s Webworm, Sean Plunket has championed a bunch of awful stuff on Magic Talk — often on their main weekday show Magic Afternoons.

Back in 2018, he told a female member of parliament to “use your ears rather than your mouth” because they were a “recent arrival” to New Zealand:

That is racist, but it slid by. The station’s listeners let is slide, and Mediaworks let it slide.

Sometimes, he’d get a slap on the wrist. Two years after the “recent arrival” incident — and a string of further stupidity — Mediaworks was finally fined for Sean Plunket’s racist views:

The Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) has reprimanded MediaWorks, fining it $3000 and ordering an on-air apology, for an “offensive and harmful” interview between its Magic Talk host Sean Plunket​ and a spokesman from Te Whānau ā Apanui.

The BSA said Plunket amplified racism, misinformed listeners, ridiculed Te Tiriti and was insulting to Te Whānau ā Apanui.

When he’s not saying racist stuff, Sean is being shitty to the deaf community, lashing out at various LGBTQI+ matters, or when he’s run out of material he stands up for Harvey Weinstein.

That saw him resign from his job at the time, at the (get this!) Broadcasting Standards Authority (yes, the entity that would go on to fine him). But Sean continues to feel invincible, because he’s been actively championed by Mediaworks for years now. That fact never changes, so why would he?

Sometimes Sean gets personal, like in January of 2020 when he went after a victim of an alleged sexual assault. He tweeted an open letter to the woman, threatening to reveal her identity publicly.

Keep in mind this is not some teenager on 8Kun — it’s an adult white male with one of the top broadcaster jobs in New Zealand.

Facing increasing scrutiny on Twitter, Plunket eventually deleted that particular tweet. And then — as always — he kept broadcasting. I keep thinking of Mediaworks’ CEO’s comments about John Banks — and wonder if we’ll ever hear them uttered about any of Magic Talk’s other hosts.

“It’s extremely disappointing for all the committed staff who work here for this incident to occur. This type of behaviour is totally unacceptable and will never be tolerated.”


It’s been frustrating and embarrassing living in a country where this behaviour is championed (they are literally paying him to say these words) by a company that once let me cut my teeth in journalism.

With Mediaworks doing nothing over the years, I regularly call him out on social media. Sean found me on Facebook once, calling my comments about his work “offensive” and “unprofessional”.

His parting words before I blocked him were “Oh no you are the sauna wannabe guy” — a reference to an interview I did with a conservative politician in a sauna which lead to him resigning as the leader of his party.


“I remember the blood was absolutely pounding in my ears and I felt faint I was so enraged. I had a strong physical reaction, felt dizzy at my desk and couldn't stop crying.”

Today I spoke to Rebecca (I’ve changed her name) who worked in the newsroom Sean broadcast from. At the time, the Magic Talk radio studio was in the middle of the newsroom. Rebecca would literally walk past and see Sean in the studio through the glass.

“The year before last I lodged a complaint about Sean Plunket and I feel like nothing was really done about it, but it was honestly a pretty traumatic experience for me. 

This was back when Magic Talk was pumped into the bathroom so we all had to listen to homophobic, misogynistic, transphobic rhetoric all day long. I think I was particularly affected by stuff around young women and sexual assault. And he’d say this stuff on air then come out of his little fucking studio and walk amongst all these young women he worked alongside.

And one day I’d had enough.”

This was around the time Sean was on the war path against people who’d alleged they’d been sexually assaulted.

“He was saying the “so-called victims” shouldn’t be called victims, as no crime has been proven, often they’re out to harm the reputation and credibility of those they accuse and so on.”

“He also called them attention seekers, said they weren't handling the situation with “dignity” — fuck me that one sticks out — and if there's no evidence shouldn’t be believed.

“I remember the blood was absolutely pounding in my ears and I felt faint I was so enraged. I had a strong physical reaction, felt dizzy at my desk and couldn't stop crying.”

Being a junior staff member at the time, Rebecca didn’t feel comfortable going directly to HR, so she went and talked to her boss first. She said she had been personally affected and wanted to make an official complaint. Rebecca provided timecodes for the specific offensive comments.

“I pointed out that at the time we’d recently had a suicide in our newsroom and there was this huge emphasis on mental health. And this chat I am listening to is directly detrimental to my health and other employees, especially females: ‘I would like to take this to official channels but wanted to come to you first’.”

Rebecca was thanked for raising concerns, and was told by her boss they’d have a word to management at Magic Talk, and let them know the tone of Sean’s show was not acceptable.

“And I was like okay, I don’t want to go against authority too much so said ‘thank you’, and all I heard about it afterwards was that someone was going to have a talk to Sean.”

Rebecca said she was told it was “handled”, Sean was “spoken to”, and the “tone of the show was adjusted”.

Other staff members told me Magic Talk stopped being played in staff bathrooms. For about a week — then it returned.

“Which is fucking bullshit. It got brushed under the rug and there wasn’t even an apology given. But I still had to make a cup of tea next to him in the kitchen next week didn’t I? So I was just like, this is the way it is, I work next to you and you caused me quite a bit of trauma.”

I don’t doubt they did. Rebecca choked up several times while we talked. This wasn’t an easy conversation to have.

“The power he holds due to his radio position is so insane compared to his real-world presence. Seeing him around the office, I always noted how uncomfortable he seemed around strong young women but is happy to go into his little studio and talk shit about them to other white middle-aged men. It got to a point where I was going to a bathroom on another floor to avoid listening to him.”


“So proud to be Maori.”

On air yesterday, more tears. More hurt. More strength.

Hosts from Mai FM — also a Mediaworks station, spoke about how they felt about the John Banks incident.

A post shared by Mai Morning Crew (@maimorningcrew)

It’s powerful, masterful radio. It’s everything Magic Talk is not.

We just wanted the Mai whanau to know that obviously we don’t stand by any of that and for anyone hurt by those comments, we are hurting with you. We are a community and we are a whanau.

And I am so proud to be Maor—

He tears up.

So proud to be Maori.

Other Mediaworks staff are also speaking up.

And in the midst of all this commentary on John Banks — surely now one of New Zealand’s most well know racists — I found myself wondering what Sean makes of all this.

And today on Twitter, we found out.

He’s made a joke about it. Just like he did with rapist Harvey Weinstein.

Same same, for Sean. Nothing changes. What a life, what a world, what a fucking mess.

David.

PS: The CEO of Mediaworks says he will talk to me, but not today. From Mediaworks’ PR: “Cam’s keen to chat but he’s tied up today unfortunately. Could I ask that you hold off on your piece and we can organise some face time with him next week? We should also have a bit more to say then.”

I said if Cam has more to add to this story, then I am happy to talk to him then. But I wasn’t going to wait to publish this.

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