Shock jock’s Virgin Mary slur ruled indecent

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Jacki O and Kyle Sandilands: Kyle’s comments on Mary clearly come form ignorance.Photo: Brewhahaha/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0
Kyle Sandilands’ anti-Christian comments were ruled indecent. Photo: Brewhahaha/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

But rant found to fall short of targeting believers

Sydney radio station KIIS 1065 breached decency standards with comments by jock shock Kyle Sandilands about the Blessed Virgin Mary, an investigation has found.

However the Australian Communications and Media Authority said the statements made on air last September did not breach rules against inciting hatred and severe ridicule because of religion.

Coincidentally, the finding was published on 8 September which is held in honour by Eastern and Western Christians as the birthday of Christ’s mother.

“Australians…would not expect a host of a broadcast program to derisively criticise people’s intelligence because of their religious beliefs.”

“Australians are generally tolerant of irreverent humour and critical discussion about religion. But they would not expect a host of a broadcast program to derisively criticise people’s intelligence because of their religious beliefs,” said ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin.

“Mr Sandilands overstepped the mark in terms of the generally accepted standards of decency in this case.”

While the ACMA found the broadcast contained offensive statements to listeners of faith and the wider community, it did not reach the high threshold under the Commercial Radio Code of Practice for a breach of rules relating to inciting hatred and severe ridicule because of religion.

Peaceful protesters outside the KIIS radio station in Macquarie Park on 29 October 2019. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

“While the comments were offensive, they lacked the necessary element of likely incitement, in all the circumstances, of hatred, serious contempt or severe ridicule in the audience, which is the test in the rules,” Ms O’Loughlin said.

The ACMA said the actions taken by the licensee and Mr Sandilands at the time of the broadcast, including on-air apologies, issuing a licensee statement, removal of material from its website and reaching out to religious leaders in the community were “sufficient remediation in this case”.

In response to the ACMA’s findings, KIIS 1065 has also counselled Mr Sandilands and will ensure its staff legal compliance training will reference the broadcast and breach findings.

Christians protested outside the station’s Macquarie Park offices and 180 people formally complained after an episode of the Kyle & Jackie O show aired on 18 September last year. They alleged that the segment in which Kyle referred to the Virgin Mary was offensive and incited hatred and ridicule of Christians.

Following the protests Mr Sandilands made a lengthy apology for his “dumb” comments and said he believed everyone had a right to religious belief. “What I didn’t realise was…that I’d stepped on the belief of other people,” he said.

“A lot of people including fans of the show were devastated at what I said. I caused a lot of grief to a lot of people and that isn’t what I meant to do.”

Muslim and Christian leaders accepted the apology in a letter calling for “mutual respect of beliefs”.

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