2DayFM lawyers seek emails to media watchdog ACMA about Kyle Sandilands ‘spider baby’ comments

2day fm sydneyLawyers for embattled radio station 2Day FM are attempting to obtain emails between Mumbrella and the press office of the Australian Communications and Media Authority regarding an incident on the Kyle & Jackie O show.

(Updated at 3.15pm: 2DayFM now states the media outlets including Mumbrella were not the target of requests – see statement at end of this article)

Station owner Southern Cross Austereo has made the application under the Freedom of Information Act. ACMA has declined the request and Southern Cross Austereo has now appealed to the Information Commissioner.

It is unclear whether Mumbrella is the main target of Southern Cross Austereo’s application, or if it is part, as seems more likely, of a wider attempt by SCA to see the media regulator’s correspondence with the Sack Vile Kyle campaign.

Given that SCA employs journalists both on its radio networks and its regional television arm, it would be an unusual move to seek information about a journalist’s sources and news gathering.

Three of the documents that SCA is attempting to obtain include email correspondence between Mumbrella editor Tim Burrowes and the ACMA press office.  The correspondence relates to an incident in April last year where Sandilands made jokes about a baby born in Pakistan with additional limbs after the death of its conjoined twin in the womb. Sandilands made jokes about the “spider baby” having an advantage in the Olympics.

In a letter to Mumbrella editor Tim Burrowes on Friday, ACMA’s section manager for its broadcasting investigations section said:

“I am writing to advise you that Southern Cross Austereo Pty Ltd has made an application to the Information Commissioner for review (IC review) of my decision of 17 September 2012 to refuse access to certain documents under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act).

“Three of the documents that Southern Cross Austereo Pty Ltd is seeking access to include email correspondence between the ACMA and yourself.”

Mumbrella reported at the time that its source for audio of the spider baby clip was the Sack Vile Kyle campaign.

Mumbrella had inquired of the ACMA press office whether licence conditions placed on the broadcaster relating to the protection of the children following the infamous lie detector segment – where a teenage girl blurted out that she’d been a victim of rape – would apply in the case of the spider baby. The emails SCA is trying to see includes ACMA staff discussions on how they should respond to Mumbrella’s inquiry.

After making the inquiries, Mumbrella chose not to write a news story at the time about the spider baby, but Burrowes wrote an opinion piece, predicting that although the broadcast was in bad taste, it would not have breached the rules.

About a month later ACMA launched an investigation into the segment, and last August the ACMA ruled that although the comments were “grossly insensitive” they did not break the rules.

The ACMA decided not to release the documents sought by SCA under section 47G of the FOI act which includes public interest exemptions.

ACMA and SCA are currently locked in a separate court case over the death of British nurse Jacinta Saldanha who committed suicide after falling for a prank call from 2DayFM presenters while the Duchess of Cambridge was being treated in hospital.

ACMA has made a preliminary ruling that the radio presenters had broken the law over the recording of phone conversations, and as such the radio station had breached a licence condition. If upheld, the ruling could see 2Day FM’s licence to broadcast in Sydney suspended or in exceptional circumstances removed.

SCA argues that because there has been no criminal case over the call, the media regulator is not entitled to rule on whether the law has been breached. The case will be heard in just over a fortnight’s time.

At the time of posting, SCA had not responded to Mumbrella’s questions about why it was seeking the documents.

3.15pm update: 2DayFM has issued Mumbrella the following statement: “2Day FM is happy to confirm that neither Mumbrella nor any other media outlet was the target of its request to the Information Commissioner. “


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