The Australian Communications and Media Authority has found that while KIIS’s Kyle Sandilands breached decency standards over a Virgin Mary joke made this time last year, it did not incite hatred.
In September 2019, Sandilands said live on air that the Virgin Mary “a liar who was knocked up behind a camel shed”, which swiftly prompted 180 complaints to ACMA for breaching decency and inciting hatred and ridicule of Christians.
ACMA has finally ruled the show and comment did breach generally accepted standards of decency, but it did not incite hatred.
“Australians are generally tolerant of irreverent humour and critical discussion about religion,” said ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin.
“But they would not expect a host of a broadcast program to derisively criticise people’s intelligence because of their religious beliefs.
“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.”
Sandilands apologised on air after the incident. He said at the time: “Am I going to quit? No. Am I going to get fired? No. Am I sorry? Absolutely I am sorry.
“I never intended to purposely upset anyone. Obviously, I have upset people and I am sorry for it. There’s nothing else I can do but to say, hey, I am sorry for that.”
“It was a joke and it was a hugely bad decision, poor taste. I didn’t plan that joke … I was just spit-balling live here. I didn’t realise the gravity of it and it really upset a lot of people.
“I get upset at the fact that I’ve caused a lot of grief to a lot of people. That’s never what I meant to do. I was just trying to make people have a laugh and I didn’t realise I was trodding quite heavily on very gentle territory for a lot of people.”
An ARN Spokesperson said: “ARN accepts the ACMA’s final decision and findings regarding the breach of the Commercial Radio Code in relation to decency standards and no breach of the code in relation to inciting severe ridicule on the basis of religion. ARN thanks them for taking into consideration the number of extensive steps ARN took to address the broadcast of September 18, 2019.
“At the time of the broadcast, ARN recognised the sensitivity of the content and acknowledge that its broadcast caused a level of concern in some sections of the community.
“ARN has not had any breaches of the decency provision in the past 10 years and regrets any distress caused by the segment. 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.”
ACMA said KIIS’s actions based on its findings and decision were sufficient.
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