The Australian Communications and Media Authority has found the Kyle and Jackie O show did not breach its radio standards when, in May this year, Kyle abused Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce in rather graphic terms after the MP told actor Johnny Depp to remove his dogs from Australia (as they hadn’t gone through the mandatory period of quarantine).

During a three-minute radio segment broadcast on May 15, Kyle Sandilands told Joyce he sounded “like an absolute clown”. “You sound like an idiot. You should have reworded your statement. Sound like a classy guy. You’re a government minister, not some idiot off the street mouthing off to a news camera. Have some decency.”

Joyce responded that was interesting coming from Sandilands: “You’re the number one clown on radio.”

To which Sandilands responded: “Oh you’re a *beep*. Hang up on Barnaby. What a wanker. See ya later. What a loser.”

After the interview was terminated, Sandilands added to listeners that Joyce was “just a gerbil of a thing”.

A complainant said the segment didn’t give Joyce the respect that would “normally be afforded to a minister of the crown”, and also complained the language used by Sandilands, particularly the terms “wanker” and “gerbil”, breached the code by airing offensive language.

But the ACMA ruled that in the context, the term “wanker” was not taken to mean “someone who masturbates”, but rather, “a foolish or objectionable person” or a “self-indulgent or egotistical person”.

“The ACMA accepts the licensee’s submission that the use of the word was not sexual in nature,” the adjudication reports notes, but rather part of the Australian vernacular usage, which makes it OK.

As for the remark by Sandilands that Joyce was “just a gerbil of a thing”, the radio station argued that:

“This was a reference to a small mammal and nothing more. This did not include any depiction or description that was sexual in nature, nor any sexual connotation.”

ACMA ruled the comment “does not reach a level of offence that is in breach of the codes”.

The word “cock” was also used in the interview, but, ACMA noted, it had been bleeped out.

“In a robust interview on a subject of some political controversy, where a series of heated remarks were exchanged that escalated the tone and tenor of the language used, the phrases used by Mr Sandilands, while discourteous in terms of the conventions for political address , were not so threatening, abusive, vulgar or contemptuous that they were not suitable for broadcast,” the adjudication report states.

As for the objection that the interview treated Joyce in a demeaning or exploitative manner, ACMA ruled:

“Some of the language used by Mr Sandilands, specifically the term ‘wanker’ directed at Mr Joyce, is insulting and therefore constitutes a level of abuse. However, this level of abuse, when used within the context of a robust political discussion about strongly held views, where both participants made heated statements, does not reach the level of the test for being highly exploitative as contemplated within the relevant provision.”

Peter Fray

Save 50% on a year of Crikey and The Atlantic.

The US election is in a little over a month. It seems that there’s a ridiculous twist in the story, almost every day.

Luckily for new Crikey subscribers, we’ve teamed up with one of America’s best publications, The Atlantic for the election race. Subscribe now to make sense of it all, and you’ll get a year of Crikey (usually $199) and a year’s digital subscription to The Atlantic (usually $70AUD), BOTH for just $129.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW