How Kyle Sandilands was humbled by Twitter

Kyle nearly got away with it.

Almost exactly 16 hours passed between his nasty attack on journalist Alison Stephenson and the world beyond his listeners noticing.

And the way that this eventually became a news story was slightly more random than you may realise. Here’s how it happened.  

On Monday night, like a rapidly diminishing number of viewers, I was watching Kyle & Jackie O’s Night With The Stars on Seven. I was one of many on Twitter who had a view. My tweet:

“If you’re not watching Kyle & Jackie O’s Night With The Stars, tune in for a little piece of history – the worst Monday night TV of all time”

It was vacuous, unimaginative television, with some very lame guests. It helped demonstrate just how good the production team on the duo’s radio show is. I turned over to Housos.

Naturally I was intrigued to see what the ratings would be like the next day. I made a mental note to examine the 15 minute breakdowns the next morning, to view the audience behaviour as the show progressed.

Meanwhile, over at News Limited, Alison Stephenson was tracking the sentiment on Twitter. While it’s a crude tool, as Twitter only reflects the view of the tweeting demographic, not heartland Australia, it can be a useful first focus group.

So Stephenson was among the first to post.

Ratings don’t come in until 8.30am, so at 6am Tuesday, there weren’t yet many stories for Sandilands – broadcasting from LA – to look at. So he began the radio show by telling viewers:

“Some fat slag on news.com.au has already branded it a disaster. You can tell by reading the article that she just hates us and has always hated us.

“What a fat bitter thing you are. You’re deputy editor of an online thing. You’ve got a nothing job anyway. You’re a piece of shit.

“This low thing, Alison Stephenson, deputy editor of news.com.au online. You’re supposed to be impartial, you little troll.

“You’re a bullshit artist, girl. You should be fired from your job. Your hair’s very 90s. And your blouse. You haven’t got that much titty to be having that low cut a blouse. Watch your mouth or I’ll hunt you down.”

Then they got on with the show.

And that was nearly that. It would appear that nobody at News Limited caught it. Indeed, I don’t think it made a ripple anywhere in the media.

Among those listening though was Mark Colvin, presenter of ABC Radio’s PM programme. That became relevant later.

Meanwhile, I don’t have a subscription to the OzTam ratings service, so rely on the kindness of strangers for detailed numbers, so I was asking for favours.  Initially, it looked like I wasn’t going to get the data, and I wrote off the story.

Again, Kyle nearly got away with it.

But at 3pm (usually far too late in the day for a ratings story) it arrived – and the minute-by-minute graph of what happened to the post-X Factor audience was  compelling. So at 3.30pm I posted the story, complete with the graph.


It was much retweeted. So much so that individual reaction on Twitter around it merged somewhat as far as I was concerned.

Among those who responded was Colvin. I missed his tweets at the time.

Again, Kyle nearly got away with it.

But about five hours later, I decided to catch up on my tweets before grabbing an early night.

What I’d missed from Colvin – who tweets as @Colvinius – earlier in the day (and these were public tweets so I’m not busting a confidential source):

@mumbrella Listen to 1st few minutes of Kyle on the radio this morning: he calls a journalist a fat slag and says he’ll “hunt her down”.

@mumbrella Plus remarks about her “small titties”. All for the crime of writing a bad review and quoting some unfavourable twitter comments

He then provided a link to the 2Day FM podcast. You’ve gotta love a journo as a source. You don’t have to do too much work.

They’ve since removed the audio, but you can hear it here:


It was stunning stuff, as you now know. Not quite as horrific as the rape detector scandal, but certainly unpleasant, personal and threatening.

And it seemed to pretty much contradict the very first paragraph of the new Commercial Radio Code of Conduct which was only issued in September. Check out clauses (a) and (e):

Proscribed Matter
1.1 A licensee must not broadcast a program which in all of the circumstances:
(a) is likely to incite, encourage or present for its own sake violence or brutality;
(b) simulates news or events in such a way as to mislead or alarm listeners;
(c) presents as desirable: (i) the misuse of alcoholic liquor; or (ii) the use of illegal drugs, narcotics or tobacco.
(d) depicts suicide favourably or presents suicide as a means of achieving a desired result; or
(e) is likely to incite hatred against, or serious contempt for, or severe ridicule of, any person or group of persons because of age, ethnicity, nationality, race, gender, sexual preferences, religion, transgender status or disability.

Or clause 1.3 (a): “Program content must not offend generally accepted standards of decency (for example, through the use of unjustified language)”

Or a further guideline: “Avoid the use of overt sexual references in relation to a woman‟s physical characteristics which have no relevance to the issue under discussion.”

And: “Do not broadcast material which condones or incites violence against women.”

So I posted the story.

Despite getting late, it rocketed on Twitter. Look what it did to our page views. On a typical weekday, we’d be pleased with 30,000. Last night we had double that.

Source: Google Analytics

As you may know, from there, it took off. The comment threads were angry. Particularly once Penbo went to war the next morning.

It was only then going to be a matter of time before show sponsor Holden pulled its ads.

Chopper Read – yes, Chopper Read – became a focus on Twitter. (Anyone know if this is a real or satirical profile?)

And sure enough…


good_guys_tweetBut the point here is that this is yet another example of how Twitter altered the path of this debacle.

If Twitter hadn’t allowed the public instant feedback to the show, Stephenson never would have written that story.

And if Twitter doesn’t offer such easy information sharing then Colvin – who I don’t think I’ve met – wouldn’t have come across my ratings story. And he wouldn’t have had a means of sharing what he knew.

And of course, without social media, the blow torch would not have been applied as quickly and aggresively as it was onto the sponsors.

As Twitter demonstrates, even Kyle Sandilands’ luck can run out.

Tim Burrowes


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