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Regulation could make Kyle a good boy


Kyle Sandilands Radio 'bad boy' Kyle Sandilands has regretted forcing a child rape victim to relive her ordeal on air for the entertainment of his audience.

'We’re very sad for the girl and very disappointed and apologetic to anyone who took offence to it,' he said on air.

Station 2Day-FM's owners Austereo also regretted the incident. They acted to suspend the program as soon as the scale of the disaster became apparent.

It's likely that the real nature of the regret was best expressed in a headline in Tuesday's Australian Financial Review: 'Fallout from shock jocks could cost Austereo dearly'.

Columnist Neil Shoebridge wrote that the suspension of the program could mean $5 million in lost advertising revenue for Austereo.

He quoted media strategist Steve Allen: 'There wouldn't be any meaningful difference to 2Day's revenue over two weeks. But if they're off air for three weeks or more, there's going to be a loss of revenue.'

Mediaweek managing editor James Manning said on Sky Business Channel that he thinks they will be back.

'If they stay, they will lose a couple of sponsors and maybe a few listeners. The worst case scenario, if they go, is that a new show could lose all their sponsors and all their listeners.'

It's clearly a business — not a moral — decision.

The Ten Network's sacking of Sandilands from his position as an Australian Idol judge would be commendable if it was not also based upon commercial logic. For them, Sandilands would repel more viewers and advertisers than he would attract.

Self-regulation, and invariably self-interest and the survival instinct, govern how media organisations proceed in such circumstances. It seems the exploitation and psychological scarring of a 14-year-old counts for nothing. That's the way the government authority ACMA has set it up.

It's time for more government regulation. If the self-regulating radio stations were serious about their responsibility to prevent hurt to individuals such as the 14-year-old rape victim, they would employ safety measures such as a dump switch or a seven second delay. They don't, and so it is time for ACMA to consider imposing rules in the way they did after cash for comment was exposed a decade ago.

Because the stations are primarily responsible to their shareholders, it's understandable that the bottom line will rule. They will act morally only if it is imposed upon them as a condition of their licence.

Individuals working in such organisations may want to behave ethically, but they are constrained by the commercial imperative and need the helping hand of regulation. Even retired radio 'bad boy' John Laws intimated this last week when he told VEGA 95.3: 'I never wanted to create mischief that would be damaging to people.' Commercial logic required him to create mischief.

Regulation would have given him the freedom to do the right thing.

Michael MullinsMichael Mullins is editor of Eureka Street.

Topic tags: Kyle Sandilands, Austereo, shock jocks, radio broadcasting, rape, children



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Existing comments

Well said! A compassionate, realistic appraisal of the situation.

Cassandra | 10 August 2009  

Send all Austereo execs and Karl to a Maoist-style re-education centre for a year or two, + institute some regulations as you suggest. The john howard attitude still pervades much of our society [and particularly the media]. Sam Newman could also be a candidate for the camp.

jaymz | 10 August 2009  

"Self-regulation, and invariably self-interest and the survival instinct, govern how media organisations proceed in such circumstances"?

Perhaps the same could be said about Cardinal Pell's 'Melbourne model'. See www.theage.com.au/national/faith-betrayed-20090809-eea1.html?page=-1

Warwick | 10 August 2009  

Is this the Nuremburg defence? He made me do it? My ego and job before the integrity of society?
What about personal responsibility....oops always someone else to blame.

Hilary | 11 August 2009  

I agree with your position, however, have been repeatedly bewildered since this incident by 99% of the commentary about it which fails to outline the main problem, ie. that quizzing an underage girl about her exploits, obviously hoping for evidence of carnal knowledge, is the truly reprehensible thing here. Crime of this nature should have never been allowed to feed entertainment. Underage sex is mandatorily reportable to DOCS, let alone the rape. Basic legal regulations, if not moral ones, could certainly have avoided the whole situation - a delay or dump switch would only have bandaided a seriously warped program.

Rachel Logan | 14 August 2009  

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