Kyle does it again

Posted Thursday November 24, 2011 by John Gunders in |

I read an interesting article on Mumbrella this morning: apparently Kyle Sandilands has said something offensive and regrettable on his terrible radio show. The station owners are in damage control and sponsors are publicly abandoning the show.

So what was it this time? Apparently he made disparaging remarks about Magda Szubanski’s weight. What? Oh, sorry, wasn’t I clear? It was an article by Tim Burrowes called “Is Kyle Sandilands’ live broadcasting career over?” published in September 2009. Read it here.

On that occasion Kyle and co-host Jackie O were taken off air for two week as punishment for a series of inappropriate stunts, most spectacluarly the lie-detector rape debacle. As I recall there was outrage on Twitter and elsewhere, advertisers furiously distanced themselves, and the man himself appeared chastened and apologetic. Sound familiar?

Thing is, Burrowes’s comments were not unusual: that was the general tenor of opinion at the time, many people believed that his career could not survive the incident (well, he did get sacked as a judge on Australian Idol). But in time it blew over: the show returned, the outrage subsided, and business continued as usual. Very much as usual, it seems: The Age has published this useful history of offence timeline. I have no doubt that the same thing will happen this time.

Forums, blogs, and social media are full of people asking why Austereo doesn’t simply sack him. Here’s why: in the latest ratings (31 July – 22 October) for the Sydney metropolitan area, in the 5:30am to 9:00am timeslot (the show is 6-9), 2DAY FM was third with just over 10% of the market (download the pdf here). However offensive people like me find Kyle Sandilands, he is a cash cow for his employers. In 2009 Optus was the advertiser that abandoned the show: presumably Holden, Vodaphone, and The Good Guys came on board after that. Austereo will have no trouble replacing them.

I note that this time Sandilands is brashing it out: claiming the “free speech” defence, and not even bothering to fake contrition. He knows this isn’t going to affect his ratings or the attitude of his fans: those of us who are appalled don’t listen to him anyway.

There is no use calling for Sandilands’s sacking, signing petitions, or treatening advertisers if social attitudes do not change. What is glossed over in the coverage is that 200,000 people watched the TV show to the very end. That’s a pathetic number for a national television programme, but still a lot of people—presumably many of the people who tune in in droves to listen to the radio show. As long as we—as a society—feel it is still OK to abuse a woman on the basis of her appearance, people like Sandilands and his tacitly approving co-host will continue to prosper.

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