Australia’s media watchdog has ruled that 2Day FM’s Kyle Sandilands breached the radio code of practice when he labelled News Limited journalist Alison Stephenson “a piece of shit” over her coverage of his widely panned television show. The Australian Communications and Media Authority said he breached clause 1.3a of the code, which covers standards of decency.
Talking about the TV show, which it emerged a couple of hours later had suffered disastrous ratings, Sandilands told listeners:
“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.”
Sandilands’ comments sparked a furore, with a string of sponsors and advertisers withdrawing from the show and from parent company Southern Cross Austereo.
ACMA found that Sandilands’ comments did not breach the Commercial Radio Code of Conduct on the grounds of inciting violence but did breach the rules on acceptable standards of decency.
Today the ACMA published the results of its investigation into the affair at a packed press conference.
ACMA chairman Chris Chapman said: “He attacked the woman’s hair, her appearance, her weight, her professional integrity. It was targeted, it had attitude, it was unacceptable. It was gratuitous, it had vitriol.”
However, other than issuing a new condition on the station’s licence, ACMA has few powers to discipline the network and none directly on Sandilands. The situation would only become more serious for Southern Cross Austereo if there were further breaches.
ACMA said that Sandilands had also shown a “flagrant disregard” for the guidelines on the portrayal of women on commercial radio.
2Day FM had argued that the station was not in breach of the rules on decency because they included standards based on the expectations of the listeners. It argued that Kyle Sandilands listeners would not be offended by the comments.
Based on the fact that of 363 formal complaints, only 21% said they had heard the broadcast – and that the station estimated there were 82,000 listeners at the time – it argued: “Approximately 80,946 people who listened to the broadcast have not complained”.
Southern Cross Austereo CEO Rhys Holleran said in a statement: “2Day FM’s core audience is women, predominantly young women. 2Day FM has built its significant audience over the past decade by broadcasting programs which appeal to women and their interests in a relevant and entertaining way.
“Our difficulty with the proposed licence condition is that terms such as ‘decency’, ‘demeaning’ and ‘undue emphasis on gender’ are broad and ambiguous and mean different things to different people.
“The ACMA has issued no guidance on the licence condition and in light of that, we consider the condition to be unworkable.”