Kyle Sandilands’ commentary on the Paralympics, which went to air way back in 2021, has been found to be in breach of broadcasting standards.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) issued the ruling today, over 18 months after the comments first caused controversy.
ACMA found the segment, which formed part of “The Kyle and Jackie O Show” on ARN’s Kiis FM, included insensitive and disparaging comments that would have been offensive to athletes as well as the broader community.
The program breached ACMA’s provisions again two days later when Sandilands threatened a named journalist who had criticised the program.
Nerida O’Loughlin, chair of ACMA, said comments such as the ones made by Sandilands “have no place in our society, never mind on a commercial radio program”.
“Mocking participants in an event that celebrates equality and showcases the highest levels of human endeavour is beyond any measure of decency,” she said.
“Threatening and intimidating an individual is an unacceptable response to criticism and an entirely inappropriate use of broadcast media,” she added.
Kiis FM has now employed a second censor to assist its already exiting censor to minotor what is being put to air and make sure it is compliant with the radio code of practice.
The licensee has also offered ACMA a court-enforceable undertaking to maintain that second censor for two years. It will also deliver sensitivity training to the program hosts, producers, censor and relevant staff.
ARN declined to comment on today’s ruling.
The issue arose in September 2021 when Sandilands and his team were discussing “the Special Olympics”.
Sandilands was actually referring to the Paralympics – a different event – and co-host Jackie Henderson also referenced “the real ones” referring to the Olympics.
“Have you been watching the Special Olympics? It’s horrific, some of the things… I saw some poor bloke went for the high jump and then veered right ‘cause he was blind and landed on his arse on the ground… And 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,” Sandilands said on air.
He did, alongside newsreader Brooklyn Ross, note the monumental effort the athletes go to in their endeavours.
“I think good on you, I love the spirit of the contest… but I feel that Jesus, Christ, that’s a big effort,” Sandilands said.
Sandilands also cautioned Ross about being too emphatic in his support of the Paralympians.
“You can be nice to the handicapped [athletes], but you don’t have to compare them to the non-handicapped. You don’t have to lift them up to be better than the non-handicapped.”
News Corp then ran a story, furthering the controversy and quoting Greens Senator Jordan Steele-John who said Sandilands’ comments were “abhorrent and ableist”, called on the broadcaster to apologise and suggested he should be sacked.
Sandilands then suggested the controversy and outrage was manufactured.
“If you’ve got no news, write about someone else who’s not going to follow it up and chase it up and find out what really happened, because I’ve got a lot of time on my hands and lots of money to make things happen. So no one complained, there was no big outrage. It’s a lying, fake news story right there in The Daily Telegraph. Fake headline. Fake story. Fake outrage…. It’s unbelievable that these people are allowed to lie constantly about people and get paid by a multinational company and nothing happens about it,” he said.
He branded News Corp “gutless worms” and said the article’s author, Mitchell Van Himrigh, was a “naughty liar” who was not a serious journalist.
“I dared say the words ‘Special Olympics’ instead of, what’s the word? … [Paralympics]. How am I supposed to know the difference? I don’t follow any sport. There’s a big story in here. Let me tell you the real story about what happened, because I’ve already found out through all my Government friends. Some journalist…. they’ve written it here… and here’s the lying headline, and you’re a big company, News Corp, you should make sure you don’t lie in your newspapers. ‘Sandilands slammed for Paralympic swipe’. Now I’m not slammed by anyone except the one Greens senator who the journalist rang up and asked to comment then sent the Senator the audio so he could comment. So straight off the bat, it’s a bullshit story,” he sad.
“I said all these things, but it wasn’t negative towards the contesting. I just said I saw some stuff and I was shocked… it was quite the eye-opener that thing. But they make the article sound like I’m very anti anyone with a handicap.”
Sandilands also issued some, likely tongue-in-cheek, threats to the journalist about sending some “Tongan mates” to see the journalist to clarify the matter.
Sandilands and Henderson remain Sydney’s #1 breakfast radio show and he’s just finished a stint as a judge on Channel 7’s “Australian Idol”.