Sydney 2DAY FM shock jock Kyle Sandilands has been branded a misogynist by some senior media female commentators for his nasty on-air attack on a woman journalist. For me, that description of him misses the mark, by a long shot.
Certainly some of the derogatory terms he used in response to criticism of his dismal television foray by the journo (a rant I won’t give any dignity to by repeating it here) were aimed at her appearance. However, to brand Kyle as a “woman-hater” overlooks the fact that he is an equal-opportunity bully.
To say he singles out women for his scorn gives him a convenient “out clause” and he found that loophole yesterday on his show with this rejoinder: “I treat everyone equally, doesn’t matter your gender, your race, your sexual preference; you’re equal as far as I’m concerned.”
His co-host Jackie O agreed, saying that she couldn’t work with a woman hater. (I have to back up her claim, because one of my feisty female friends is a producer on the show and she’s no pushover.)
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Jackie O then went on to say (kicking an own goal): “… but it’s certainly not reserved to women because … we’ve had Rove, we’ve had Wil Anderson … we’ve had a long line of people.”
Indeed we have.
You can include in that list his appalling treatment of 2DAY newsreader Geoff Field (a bloke I knew from my own brekkie shift days and respected enormously). Geoff is gay and was the butt of on-air jokes and stunts about his s-xuality for years.
It was reported that complaints from Field to the station’s human resources department and mediation did nothing to alleviate the situation. Field finally walked from the show in 2010 when Sandilands accused him of being drunk at a station function.
Sandilands’ on-air response? “Once they leave they’re dead to me.”
Later in a podcast for Media Week, Kyle had this to say: “He was running off down to HR … bitching and carrying on … I told him you can argue back … but you are never going to win … Geoff’s an older gay man, easily offended.”
Bully, bully, bully!
There are myriad issues at stake here and playing the gender card on Kyle isn’t adequate. He has, as he says, insulted everyone.
According to the last Nielsen survey published on October 30 this year: 25.0 of 2DAY listeners are aged 10-17 and 18.5 are aged 18-24. (2DAY was ranked third behind 2GB and the ABC.)
The fact is — like it or not — Kyle commands a large audience. Many of those young listeners comandeer the radio dial in the car every morning as they are driven to school.
How then, has he been able to turn the breakfast airwaves into a toxic sludge of intimidation, threats and salacious s-xual content when these young people are listening? That’s a question we all have to answer.
If Kyle is removed on the charge that he is disrespectful to women, that’s only the half of it and, I believe, merely serves to reinforce the view of males that they are being “got at” by females. Many of them old enough to be their mothers.
“Drink a cup of cement and harden the fuck up!” will be a common response. “Piss off, you ugly old bags,” will be another. As I say, characterising this as a male versus female fight doesn’t do this issue justice.
Who should carry the can for Kyle’s serial offences? Those who have afforded him the right to systematically abuse the public airwaves.
For a start, I’d nominate Austereo executives who have rewarded Kyle handsomely for every new outrage. Then there’s the Australian Communications and Media Authority which has been widely criticised as being for decorative purposes only — like bells on a Christmas tree.
And, don’t start me on TV executives who, apparently, mesmerised by the chant of “ratings, ratings” keep giving Kyle a prime-time gig.
Next come the sponsors. Who knows why they are so entranced by the random numbers in surveys? Do they not take any heed at all of where and how their brand is being disported?
Then there’s us, the listening public. Have social mores shifted that far that we accept Kyle’s offerings as normal fare? How did we go from “silly” and “fun” to “outrageous” and “shocking” as breakfast entertainment?
Let’s face it, Kyle is an invention for which we all have to take responsibility. And now, we have to deal with how to put Pandora back in his box.
We start with the decision (after wide public pressure) of sponsors to abandon the show. Sadly, money talks. That’s how this stuff works.
If there’s to be a recalibration of what we expect and are comfortable in hearing and viewing, it has to come from a concerted effort from all of us.
As for the assertion by one female commentator that we are all frightened of Kyle, the power he weilds and that’s how he has gotten away with it for so long? I believe this portrays achieving women as victims. Scaredy Cats. That’s not right.
I’ve never been afraid of Kyle. He’s never had any power over me.
It’s true that I once opined that he was a decent person. I’m on the record as saying so. Kyle was always respectful in his dealings with me when we both worked at 2DAY and, after 30 years in the biz, I’ve a nose for a woman hater. I’ve met plenty of ’em.
However, the rewards showered on Kyle for getting the ratings, at any cost, have warped his sense of importance and his values. I don’t think that I’d recognise him now. This is not the straight-ahead, hard-working young man I used to know.
I’m sorry for that.
Trouble is, if Kyle didn’t exist, someone in management somewhere would have invented him. How many are enjoying their ratings bonuses because of his ability to pull in the listeners? And what does that say about us?
And, if you’re interested, here’s a piece I wrote on Kyle and the questionable content of his program earlier this year as a lead columnist for the Sydney Sunday Telegraph.
*This article first appeared on The Hoopla