Controversial radio host Kyle Sandilands has twice breached broadcasting standards in comments about Paralympian athletes, Australia’s media watchdog has found.
In a report released on Tuesday, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) censured the KIIS FM star for “offensive” comments in which he described the Tokyo Paralympics as “horrific”.
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Sandilands will now have to undergo “sensitivity training” after twice breaching the broadcasting code’s “decency provision”.
In the first instance, dating back to September 1, 2021, Sandilands asked co-host Jackie “O” Henderson if she had been watching the “Special Olympics”.
“It’s horrific, some of the things,” he continued.
“Some poor bloke ran for the high jump and then veered right because he was blind and landed on his a*** on the ground.
“Then when they were playing soccer, the blind people, I was thinking, are you joking, they’re throwing themselves on the ground like sausages to block the ball.
“And I think, good on you, I love the spirit of the contest … but I feel, Jesus Christ, that’s a big effort.”
He added: “Listen, you can be nice to the handicapped, but you don’t have to compare them to the non-handicapped.”
The ACMA concluded, in its report released on Tuesday, that “the Paralympians were being mocked by Mr Sandilands, and mocked for the techniques used to participate and compete in their particular sport”.
“The ACMA considers a regular listener of the program, while tolerant of irreverent presentation styles, would still be able to identify what was generally ‘acceptable’ content, and who was likely considered a ‘fair target’ for humour or mocking in contemporary Australia.”
‘No place in society’
ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin said radio broadcasters had a responsibility to ensure that what they said met the standards expected by their audience.
“Comments like those broadcast on this program have no place in our society, never mind on a commercial radio program,” she said.
“Mocking participants in an event that celebrates equality and showcases the highest levels of human endeavour is beyond any reasonable measure of decency.”
The second incident occurred two days later on September 3, 2021, when Sandilands named and threatened, on-air, a journalist who had complained about his Paralympics’ comments.
“If you’ve got no news, write about someone else that’s not going to follow it up and chase it up and find out what really happened, ‘cause I’ve got a lot of time on my hands and lots of money to make things happen,” he said.
“Wake up, go away, pick on someone that hasn’t got the ability to destroy your entire life.
“No, that’s not a threat, that’s a guarantee.”
“Threatening and intimidating an individual is an unacceptable response to criticism and an entirely inappropriate use of broadcast media,” O’Loughlin said.
KIIS FM’s defence told the ACMA that Sandilands was “well-known for his turn of phrase, colourful vernacular and blunt manner”.
“The audience somewhat ‘self-selects’ so that those that choose to listen are not offended by this manner,” they argued.
“Our expectation is that regular Kyle & Jackie listeners would not have been offended by the Paralympics segment.”
But the ACMA found the comments would have been offensive to the broader community as well as Paralympic athletes.
“Mr Sandilands’ comments were insensitive and hurtful toward the athletes as well as being offensive to the average moderate person in the broader community, including the regular audience of the program, who would have been aware of the potential impact of these comments, not only on the Paralympians that were being described in this manner, but on the wider group of people in Australia with disabilities,” the ACMA stated.
The station will now be required to have two censors during the Kyle and Jackie O Show, with Sandilands and the rest of the show’s staff instructed to undergo sensitivity training.
KIIS FM has also agreed to review its controls to prevent further breaches of the “decency provision”.
Sandilands has yet to publicly comment on the ACMA’s findings.
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