Media watchdog says it may investigate Triple M and Nine over Eddie McGuire drowning remarks

The Nine Network may be subjected to an investigation by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) after an editorial by controversial AFL commentator Sam Newman defending Eddie McGuire’s comments about drowning The Age sports journalist Caroline Wilson.

McGuire, centre, also presents Triple M's Hot Breakfast in Melbourne

McGuire, centre, also presents Triple M’s Hot Breakfast in Melbourne

The ACMA today signalled that it may investigate both Triple M and Nine as the furore over McGuire’s remarks, made on Triple M two weeks ago, continues to burn after Newman took fire last night labelling the media ‘excrement’ and taking aim at Wilson who he labelled “an embarrassment” who could “talk under water”. 

In a statement ACMA noted that it has received a number of complaints but the normal course of action required the Authority to approach the broadcaster first.

However, it said the Authority had also had discussions about opening its own investigation.

“The Australian Communications and Media Authority has received some initial inquiries,” said the ACMA spokeswoman. “These are being referred to the broadcasters in the first instance, as per the complaints provisions in the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 and the relevant codes of practice.

“The Authority has held preliminary discussions about these matters and will be making further inquiries.”

While it would be expected that Triple M would be main subject of any investigation, Newman’s remarks have potentially opened the door for an investigation of Nine as well.

Newman made headlines in 2008 when he dressed a mannequin with Wilson’s face in lingerie and then manhandled the figure.


Newman with the ‘Wilson’ mannequin

The resulting investigation found that Newman provoked severe ridicule and breached the commercial television code with Nine agreeing to pay $200,000 to charity in the event of any future breach by Mr Newman of the relevant code provision. That undertaking expired in 2012.* 

Note: This video is only embeddable as an autoplay video.

Last night Newman took aim at the The Age journalist, accusing her of “feigning indignation” over the remarks, which he says essentially come down to “a personality clash between two radio stations” 3AW and Triple M.

“If you want to be treated equally don’t complain when it’s too equal,” he said, before adding, “Now finally the jig is up, Caro; honestly and truly you are becoming an embarrassment and even if you were under water you would still be talking.”

Newman’s remarks were met with applause from the audience but James Brayshaw, who was part of the original Triple M broadcast, then piped in, saying: “You are absolutely entitled to your point of view, Sam, but I don’t agree, especially with that last bit.”

Newman then responded: “What? If you are under water? People can still talk under water, Jim. Don’t take that to another level. You’ve heard the phrase ‘you can talk under water’ and she talks plenty.”

The Channel Nine host was defending his friend and colleague, Eddie McGuire, who has been the subject of an intense media storm after audio of the broadcast emerged over the weekend.

At the Big Freeze fundraiser held at the MCG, on Monday last week, TripleM Hot Breakfast show host Eddie McGuire and other commentators and AFL officials joked on-air that people would pay to see The Age’s Caroline Wilson dunked in cold water, saying: “I reckon we should start the campaign for a one-person slide next year featuring Caroline Wilson and I’ll put in 10 grand straight away – make it 20. And if she stays under – 50. What do you reckon guys?”

McGuire was about to go through the ice slide himself and brought in fellow Triple M host James Brayshaw and former St Kilda captain Danny Frawley, with the latter responding: “I’ll actually jump in and make sure she doesn’t [come up] … I’ll hold her under, Ed.”

Last night Brayshaw openly disagreed with some of Newman’s remarks and said it was only right that he and McGuire apologise.

Brayshaw it was only right that we apologise.

Brayshaw: “It’s absolutely appropriate that we apologise”

“Some of that language that was used in that 30 seconds that has been discussed so much was off the pace and for that it was absolutely appropriate that we apologise,” said Brayshaw.

Triple M earlier this week said it had spoken with staff involved and that no further action was required but yesterday issued a separate apology and announced that all on-air staff would be receiving training from the White Ribbon Foundation. 

The ACMA codes of practice on the portrayal of women on commercial radio states that presenters should not: “place undue emphasis on gender and resist stereotyping… negative or inequitable sex-role portrayal (which) refers to language, attitudes or representations, which tend to associate particular roles, modes of behaviour, characteristics”.

Regarding the drowning remarks, the Code instructs: “Do not broadcast material which condones or incites violence against women” and “Ensure that reporting and ‘on-air’ discussions respect the dignity of women and are non-exploitive.”

A spokeswoman for Triple M responding to the ACMA statement told Mumbrella:  “Triple M takes feedback from listeners seriously and will respond to complaints we receive in compliance with the radio codes of practice.”

Nine Entertainment Co., declined to comment.

Clarification: *A previous version of this story said that Nine might be liable for $200,000 fine. The ACMA has since clarified that the enforceable undertaking no longer applies.


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