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Pressure grows on Optus over sponsorship of rape radio show

The focus of the Kyle & Jackie O show’s rape debacle has begun to switch to programme sponsor Optus amid calls from within and outside the marketing industry for the network to be boycotted by advertisers while the controversial but high rating programme remains on air.  

Outspoken Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt today told his readers:

“The folks you want are the show’s main sponsor, Optus, and Sandilands’ boss, Austereo chief executive Michael Anderson.”

The row began on Wednesday after a 14-year-old girl taking part in a disastrous lie detector segment on the 2Day FM  show – which is also syndicated to the rest of Australia – was asked about her sexual activities and she blurted out that she had been raped. Presenter Kyle Sandilands asked a follow up question about her other sexual experiences before the segment was dumped.

Ben Shepherd, national digital director at Maxus, which is part of WPP’s Group M, wrote on Twitter yesterday: “Optus need to walk from Kyle and Jackie O immediately and yank their Austereo group adspend until they are taken off air.” Group M (which doesn’t have Optus as a client) spends millions of dollars a year on radio in Australia.

Adam Ferrier, managing partner at communications agency Naked Commununications, put up his own blog posting urging for the pair to be axed. Commenting on Ferrier’s blog, Shepherd urged the industry: 

“If the ad industry wants to do something good  it would send a message to Austereo by not advertising on the network until Kyle and Jackie are taken off the air. My thoughts are that is the only protest ultimately Austereo and Village Roadshow will listen to – the sound of dollars walking out the door.”

Other messages have also appeared on Twitter, and on news websites urging customers to put pressure on Optus to pull its support of the show. On Mumbrella, one advertising creative posted a link to the Optus complaints form urging others to make their protest.

Despite the potential for a backlash against the brand, by yesterday afternoon it did not appear to have occurred to Optus that it could be an issue. When Mumbrella called the corporate communications team on Thursday afternoon, staff appeared to be unaware of Optus’s link with the show. A spokeswoman said: “If we’ve got something to say I’ll call back.” So far Optus has not returned any comment.

The level of coverage of Vile & Tacky O, as Sydney’s Daily Telegraph has labelled the affair – shows no sign of abating from today’s newspapers and morning TV shows, with most of them continuing the critical coverage following critical comments from Prime Minister Kevin Rudd yesterday. The affair has also generated the most comments on a single article since The Punch launched with more than 500 comments on a guest posting from Sandilands in which he blames the press for the fuss.

If the row continues into next week, it threatens to overshadow the launch event of digital radio in Australia when Kyle & Jackie O are due to join presenters from every radio statio in Sydney in Martin Place to mark the official launch.

The complaints procedure for radio means that although the Australian Communications and Media Authority has the right to instigate an investigation – as it did for the cash for comments affair – radio stations are usually the first port of call for complaints. So far ACMA has chosen not to get involved. Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for Austereo confirmed that complaints had been received but declined to give any indication as to numbers.

And the issue is also a live one for TV network Ten, with Australian Idol about to return with Sandilands as a judge.

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