Case Number: 2817

Council Meeting: AUGUST 2019

Verdict: No Grounds to Proceed

Publication: The Listener

Ruling Categories: Columnists
Offensive Language


Susan Bailey complained that a comment in a Bill Ralston column was offensive and in breach of the Media Council Principle Discrimination and Diversity.

The column was published in the context of a current debate on the End of Life Choice Bill that was making its way through Parliament.

In the column, Gently into that good night, Mr Ralston explored his possible reaction to learning he had six months to live. He also expressed the view that the Bill did not go far enough.In his view it should extend to those with “grossly debilitating diseases who cannot face going on for a long indeterminate period.”

He then considered the case of a tetraplegic and determined that for him, in that situation, as long as he “could read and watch Netflix, I would probably be happy to stay on, because my customary position is prone on a couch.”

It was this comment that drew Ms Bailey’s complaint.

The Media Council notes that this was an opinion column and the views expressed were clearly those of the author. This was not a description of disabled people generally, but a reflection on the personal habits of the writer and how he might respond to a particular situation.

The Complaints Committee finds no grounds to proceed with this complaint.

Further we note that Ms Bailey’s initial letter of complaint was abridged and published in NZ Listener and that she was offered a further opportunity to contribute to the debate in the Letters column.An offer she did not take up.

Finding: No Grounds to Proceed.