Channel Nine’s Footy Show panellist Sam Newman has achieved another dubious first. He is the first television personality to be so persistently obnoxious as to cause his employer to commit to contributing to charity the next time he is racist or sexist.

What a shameful thing. If only we could be sure that Channel Nine IS appropriately ashamed. After all, Newman keeps his job.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority has breached Channel Nine over a Footy Show segment last September in which Newman referred to a Malaysian man as a “monkey” and as being “not long out of the forest”.

On the Sam’s Mailbag segment, Newman held up a photograph of a newly married couple, including a wife much older than her Malaysian husband.

Newman referred to the man several times as a “monkey”, and as being “the chief’s son”. Later he held the photo up against one of African American tennis player Serena Williams, implying that because both were dark skinned, they were in some way the same.

As a complainant to ACMA stated: “This is racism at its deepest, darkest, lowest, most dehumanising level.”

It’s Channel Nine’s second Newman-related offence, and for this reason Channel Nine has entered into an unprecedented enforceable undertaking requiring it to contribute $200,000 to charity if Newman offends again. ACMA’s report is here.

In May last year, ACMA breached the Footy Show for sexism over a segment in April 2008 in which Newman dressed a female mannequin in lingerie and invited the audience to pretend it was sports journalist Caroline Wilson. He stapled a photo of Wilson to the mannequin’s head, carried it around by the crotch and made demeaning comments on her appearance.

There are several aspects of this latest case that take the breath away. One is what Newman actually said.

But the other is surely the insouciance with which Channel Nine dished up self-serving crap  in its own defence when responding to ACMA. Obviously it is too much to hope that when found out, commercial television channels will throw up their hands and say “fair cop”. The first response always seems to be to treat the regulator, and the complainants, with contempt.

Believe it or not, Channel Nine argued to ACMA that all the “monkey” and “not long out of the forest” and “chief’s son” comments were non-racially based statements about the man’s intelligence in marrying an older woman. And that they were satire.

Such an attitude does not inspire confidence that the other measures in the ACMA enforceable undertaking —  commitments that senior management will pre-approve the props and materials to be used in the Sam’s Mailbag segment, and the introduction of three monthly anti-discrimination training sessions for Newman, other presenters and the production team — will cut much mustard.

After all, we were assured that Newman had undergone “training” after the Wilson episode. It doesn’t seem to have worked.

On the other hand, ACMA head gell told me this morning that the enforceable undertaking was the initiative of Channel Nine CEO David Gyngell, who wanted to signal to the production team the seriousness with which he took the breach.

And the procedures laid down in the undertaking effectively transfer responsibility from the production team to senior management, so Gyngell has effectively given himself some skin in the game.

Here’s a challenge to Channel Nine. Invite some scrutiny of this training. Let an independent outsider sit in on it, and report publicly on how it is conducted, and the diligence of the pupils.

Meanwhile, if Newman breaches the broadcasting code again, Channel Nine will have to donate $200,000 to charity, with the recipients to be agreed between ACMA and the broadcaster.

It isn’t really all that much money, but nevertheless within the limits of the regulator’s powers, represents an intention to get tougher and more inventive in making its penalties matter.

None of which hides the fact that if Newman offends again — and given his track record it is hard to believe that he will not — the only realistic option left to ACMA will be to place conditions on Channel Nine’s broadcasting licence.

One other thought. Imagine if this had been the ABC. Remember the fuss over the Chaser’s Make a Wish sketch? That stepped over a line, but it was nowhere near as in-your-face offensive as Sam Newman’s racism and s-xism.

The ABC, being taxpayer funded, should be held to higher standards. But does that mean Channel Nine can stoop so low, without suffering anywhere like the same level of public condemnation?

Channel Nine’s publicity department were contacted for comment, and said that the channel would be issuing a statement on the matter tomorrow.