The fallout from the 2DayFM prank call scandal could be a culture of conservatism sweeping Australian media, according to senior media buyers.
The death of mother-of-two Jacinta Saldanha, who forwarded a prank call from DJs Mel Greig and Michael Christian, who were pretending to be royals, has caused station owner Southern Cross Austereo (SCA) to suspend ads on its Sydney 2DayFM station until at least Wednesday, with Coles pulling all ads from the network.
The station has been no stranger to controversy; most recently it was slapped with decency conditions after Kyle Sandilands called a News Limited reporter a “piece of shit” on air, and has faced advertising boycotts before.
However, the scale of the current crisis, which has already generated headlines in dozens of international publications, particularly in the UK, eclipses those past issues, with nearly 25,000 comments left on the SCA Facebook page so far, mostly negative.
It also follows the controversy surrounding veteran presenter Alan Jones, where advertisers pulled support for his 2GB show after controversial comments about the Prime Minister’s father, following a social media backlash.
One senior media buyer told B&T the problem now facing advertisers was whether they should pull support from any perceived “risky” media outlets, for fear of future backlashes.
They added: “My only advice to advertisers is if consumers start targeting them for supporting the radio station they don’t need to put themselves out there and set themselves up.
“To take advertising off air is a difficult call, and consumers can react and you have to make a call depending on how serious the thing is.
“Ultimately you’re trying to put your message out to the consumer. It’s one of the few channels you can still get a mass market reach on.”
The Australian Media and Communications Authority (ACMA) is poised to get involved and investigate the situation, and could well impose further sanctions on the licensee, restricting what it is allowed to broadcast.
This, according to another media buyer, could lead to further problems for the network, known for its edgy content, and could cause a loss of audiences.
They said: “I think advertisers will follow the audiences, if they stay strong, then when this has died down advertisers will return. But, if they don’t get the audiences back, there’s less incentive to.
“The danger is if we carry on down this line of not wanting to cause offence to anyone in case people shout about it, and no-one takes risks any more as people are too fearful as a result, we will have a very grey and unexciting world where nothing happens.
“Obviously things have to be within the realms of reason and safeguard people’s livelihoods and wellbeing, but the danger is we end up living in a world where nothing happens, and that’s not the nature of the media.”
Another added: “No-one wants to live in a more antiseptic world, with more regulation. There’s an emphasis on wholesomeness, but there is a danger this could lead to more conservatism.
“The problem is this now gives more fuel to those calling for more media regulation, which will lead to more conservatism.”
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