Media watchdog launches investigation into live radio following Kyle & Jackie O scandal

Australia’s media regulator has taken the rare step of intervening in the Kyle & Jackie O lie detector scandal before the network’s 60 day deadline to deal with public complaints has expired.  

The Australian Communications and Media Authority said in a statement it would be investigating whether the Commercial Radio Codes of Practice need to be tightened to protect members of the public taking part in live segments on entertainment shows on commercial radio. This could involve creating a new standard of practice that broadcasters would be held to.

The announcement follows the disastrous segment at the end of last month when a 14-year-old girl was asked about her sexual experiences and blurted out that she had been raped.

ACMA initially referred complaints to Austereo, saying that the network should deal with them in the first instance. Despite numerous requests from Mumbrella, Austereo has so far refused to disclose how many complaints were received, although ACMA says it has referred 137 complaints to the network. The Austereo complaints process will continue while the ACMA invetigations looks at the wider question of standards in radio.

After the incident the network initally kept the show on the air, before it was suspended the following week at the request, the network claimed, of presenter Kyle Sandilands.

Sandilands was then dismissed from his job as a judge on Australian Idol.

Up to now, ACMA appeared to be staying clear of the scandal, although it does have the power to initiate its own investigations, as it demonstrated with the cash for comment radio scandal when it created new standards around disclosure of sponsors, which allowed fines to be imposed when they were broken.

In today’s statement, ACMA said it would look if the regulations “provide sufficient safeguards for participants and subjects in live-hosted entertainment programs on commercial radio”

However, it remains highly unlikely that if and when ACMA looks at the complaints involving the Kyle & Jackie O show directly any fine or sanction would be forthcoming, as there is currently no standard directly governing how participants are treated. A breach of the general codes cannot be punished with a fine.

“Recent public concern in relation to an episode of the Kyle and Jackie O Show, broadcast by 2Day FM, has highlighted broader issues about the treatment of participants and subjects involved in ‘stunt’ or ‘prank’ calls, competitions and challenges on commercial radio,” said Chris Chapman, chairman of ACMA.

“The strength of community concern expressed about the practices of some live-hosted entertainment programs and the ACMA’s own assessments indicate that there is emerging evidence that the current regulatory arrangements may not be keeping pace with industry practice and community standards.”

ACMA has set a September deadline for submissions on the subject and aims to report back by the end of the year.

An incident involving Fox FM in Melbourne – which is also an Austereo station will also inform the ACMA review. Austereo was found to have breached the code during The Matt & Jo Show when a man telephoned his girlfriend and told her he wanted her to move out. The recording was then broadcast.

Yesterday, Commercial Radio Australia announced that the Kyle & Jackie O show was a finalist in several categories of the Australian Commercial Radio Awards.


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