Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Updated: Planet Key song vanishes off the airwaves

Still from Planet Key video

Wellington musician Darren Watson released a song on August 4th via iTunes titled Planet Key, poking fun at our Prime Minister, and yesterday the Electoral Commission clamped down on him, saying radio stations who were playing it, such as Radio Active, were breaching electoral law.

Yesterday the NZ Herald reported that "Guitarist singer and songwriter Mr Watson's song and its animated video by Jeremy Jones released last week pokes fun at the Prime Minister and his Government.

It features Mr Key playing a stinging blues guitar solo on an endangered Maui's dolphin while an oil rig explodes in the background. It also depicts Finance Minister Bill English carrying Mr Key's golf clubs and the Prime Minister plays golf with Barack Obama.

But Mr Watson posted on Facebook this afternoon that he had just had a "super interesting chat with The Electoral Commission just now. "It appears we may be gagged."

He later posted that "the story is the Electoral Commission have advised a Access Radio station not to play Planet Key as it may be a contravention of the act."

The commission this afternoon confirmed it had banned television and radio broadcasts of the song and said it was also considering whether it was an election advertisement which would require a promoter statement to be carried in online video versions.

... Mr Watson said he had spoken with the Electoral Commission this morning [Tuesday] and they had indicated they believed the song crossed the line into being a political advertisement.

However the woman at the commission he spoke to had admitted "she hadn't actually heard the song, this was all based on hearsay".

The controversy attracted extensive mainstream media coverage... which managed to make the song more widely known... 
NZ Herald: Electoral Commission orders musical dig at Key off the air
It also featured on Prime News at 530, and TVOne's Seven Sharp

UPDATED 16 August 2014: Darren Watson says via FB that "we are going to challenge the Electoral Commission's advice on a total lifetime airplay ban and effective forced removal from sale of Planet Key all the way to the High Court if we have to. The way Jeremy and I see it this is a simple issue of the fundamental right to freedom of artistic expression."

The NZ Herald reported today that the Electoral Commission will prosecute Watson if he continues to sell the song on iTunes, and has instructed him to stop selling or promoting it. It is currently sitting at #8 on the NZ Singles chart.

Watson put out a press release late yesterday, which said "The Electoral Commission is also threatening that the sale of the song through i-Tunes without a promoter statement is "an apparent breach of section 204F of the Electoral Act", which is an illegal practice punishable by a fine of up to $10,000.

"I object to the suggestion that I am some sort of political promoter. I am a musician and I feel very strongly about this kind of censorship", says Mr Watson. "I believe in artistic freedom."

Lawyer for Mr Watson and Mr Jones, Wendy Aldred, says she has asked the Electoral Commission to reconsider its opinion, saying the Commission's letter is incorrect in its approach to the law, fails to take into account Mr Watson's right to freedom of expression under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, and is heavy-handed."

UPDATED 19 August 2014: Darren Watson says he has been instructed by The Electoral Commission to remove Planet Key from sale on iTunes by 5pm this Thursday, and to remove the video from Vimeo and Youtube.

UPDATED Monday 1 Sept 2014: Darren Watson has announced he will have a High Court hearing over his Planet Key song on Sept 11.

UPDATED 2 April 2015: 'Planet Key'song ruled as free speech by High Court

UPDATED 4 May 2015: Election commission to appeal, says its appeal is limited to questions of law and it isn't challenging the High Court's ruling in favour of Watson, who says "It's ridiculous that we still have to fight for this."

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