Kyle Sandilands has received a slap on the wrist over comments he made about the Virgin Mary on KIIS FM’s The Kyle & Jackie O Show last year.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) today announced the host was found in breach of decency standards after 180 people complained the segment was ‘offensive and incited hatred and ridicule of Christians’.
He and the show were not found to have incited hatred or ‘severe ridicule’ of religion.
Comments that kicked off major backlash
The comments were made in a 2019 broadcast on the show on September 18 and at the time sparked a wave of protests from Christian and Muslims alike, both of whom have reverence for the figure believed by both faiths to be the mother of Jesus.
Among the shock jock’s comments was a statement that anyone who believed the story of the immaculate conception was ‘dumb as dog sh*t’ and that Mary lied about the whole thing.
“I thought Mary was [Jesus’] girlfriend but apparently it was the mother,” he said in the segment. “And the mother lied obviously and told everyone, ‘Nah I got pregnant by a magical ghost’. Bullsh**.”
“Someone chock-a-blocked her behind the camel shed,” he continued. “You might believe everything that’s written down 2000 years ago to be absolutely accurate and good on you, you’re dumb. Dumb as dog sh**.”
ACMA says comments not ‘incitement’
ACMA says the radio host ‘overstepped the mark’, but did not cross into the territory of incitement, for which there exists a very high threshold.
“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 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.”
The authority says the apology issued by Kyle at the time, and the fact that online video fo the segment was pulled amid the protests was sufficient action to make up for the breach.
KIIS FM has also had to ‘counsel’ Kyle over the findings, and include the breach in future legal compliance training.
ARN ‘regrets any distress caused by the segment’
Australian Radio Network, who own KIIS, accepted the finding by the watchdog, saying in a statement they ‘regret any distress’ the segment may have caused.
“ARN has not had any breaches of the decency provision in the past 10 years and regrets any distress caused by the segment," a spokesperson said.
"In the time immediately following the broadcast, ARN took a number of actions to remedy the situation, including broadcasting Kyle Sandilands' unprecedented, lengthy and sincere on-air apology which also remains available on the KIIS website.
“Australia's Christian and Muslim faith leaders accepted Kyle's apology, which was also published in a public joint statement.”
It is not the radio royalty’s first brush with ACMA.
In 2009, the duo was put under special conditions by the watchdog after they inadvertently exposed a 14-year-old’s rape experience in a lie detector test on-air while with former radio station 2DayFM.
Kyle has also stirred up plenty of controversy solo, once commenting on Australian idol alumni Jessica Mauboy’s so-called ‘jelly belly’ on TV, and suggesting Aussie comedian Magda Szubanski join a concentration camp to shed weight after she became a spokesperson for Jenny Craig.
He also called news.com.au journalist Alison Stephenson a ‘fat slag’ after she reported about the low ratings his short-lived series with Jackie O, A Night with the Stars, was attracting.
“Some fat slag on news.com.au has already branded it a disaster. You can tell by reading the article that she just hates us and has always hated us,” he said on radio at the time.
He went on to call the journalist a ‘fat bitter thing’, a ‘piece of sh*t’ and threatened he would ‘hunt her down’ if she didn’t ‘watch her mouth’.
Kyle later apologised for the vitriolic attack for which he was found in breach of decency standards.