Do Shock Jocks have too much influence?
Shock Jocks and controversies, there have been plenty of these in Australia. From Derryn Hinch to Kyle Sandilands. Why do these disc jockeys say what they say or play the pranks they play? Is it for shock value to make people talk? Or is it to boost ratings of the show to make people encourage their friends to listen. Or is it the producers trying to raise revenue by asking the shock jock to be outrageous, hoping sponsors will come on board.
The most famous scandal which caught the world’s attention was in December 2012 when Sydney’s 2dayFM’s evening duo Mel Greig and Michael Christian broadcast a prank call in posing as Prince Charles and The Queen. They tricked hospital staff into putting them through to where the Duchess was being treated for severe morning sickness, and received confidential information about her health. The nurse who put the call through, Jacintha Saldanha, committed suicide three days later and left a note blaming the hoax.
The fallout from the hoax call was that the two djs were pulled off air and counseling was provided to the two. Micheal Christian was hired by a Melbourne radio station as a morning DJ. But for Mel Greig the incident has affected her deeply, she hasn’t been able to work and has starting legal action against Aus-stereo who runs 2dayFM for not providing a safe working environment. As to 2day FM, thousands of dollars worth of sponsorship was terminated. No more hoax calls on air and the radio station could be taken off air. Security measures have since been tightened around phone calls incoming to the London hospital after an inquiry was held.
That wasn’t the first time 2dayFM’s personnel have been in hot water. One half of “Kyle and Jackie O”, Kyle Sandilands has hit the headlines with his comments and things have happened on the high rating breakfast show. In July 2009 a mother rang in and wanted her 14-year-old daughter to take a lie detector test to find out whether the girl had experience with sex or drugs.
The girl appeared to be uncomfortable with the questioning; she started crying and said she had been raped when she was 12. Then Kyle Sandilands replied: “Right … is that the only experience you’ve had?” After public outrage over the lie detector test incident Sandilands & Jack O were off air for 3 weeks.
On 4 August 2006, Sandilands used his radio program to call Fiona Connolly, a columnist from Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, “fat” and a “liar”. After calling her the “chick that I hate at Sydney Confidential” he also stated he “… would hire a private investigator to film her and her family then I’m going to put it on a website and I’m going to show everyone what members of her family do that are dodgy”.
It seems “What goes around comes around, a year later Sandilands and Jackie O were involved in a on-air clash with Australian music personality Molly Meldrum, who described Sandilands as “arrogant”, “fat” and “talentless”.
Veteran broadcaster Derryn Hinch, the man dubbed “The Human Headline” has had a career full of controversies. He mainly worked in media in Melbourne. Hinch was jailed for 12 days and fined $10,000 in 1987 for publicly naming a pedophile priest on trial for child sex offences.
On 24 June 2008, while Hinch was discussing the celebrity status of underworld crime figures during his drive program, Mick Gatto phoned in and had a brief confrontation with Hinch, ending with a death threat. In 2011, he was ordered to serve five months home detention for four contempt charges over the naming of two convicted pedophiles at a public rally and on his website. Recently Hinch was charged with contempt of court for breaching suppression orders regarding convicted murderer Adrian Bayley, Bayley pleaded guilty to raping and killing 29-year-old ABC employee Jill Meagher in Melbourne last year. Hinch used social media and his official website to speculate about the case.
King of talk back radio, John Laws had a long career talking to people round Australia and round the world on his morning radio show. You’d think retiring at the age 72 in 2007, he would have had enough of working, you would be wrong. In 2011 at 75 John went back on the airways to continue doing what he loves, talking to people and stirring the pot. In March last year a 44 year-old female listener rang in to Mr. Laws’s show said she was abused by five male family members, including her father and brothers, from the age of six to 16. Controversy was sparked when Mr Laws asked the woman whether she provoked the abuse or if it was “in any way your fault”. Mr Laws also said, “My God, they were having a good time with you” during the interview.
Public outrage exploded over Mr Laws’s questions and comments, but John defended the questioning by saying “Those were reasonable questions, as I was asking about when she was 15, not whether she was provocative at age six. John did say he apologized to anyone offended by the interview. “The woman rang back to say that she didn’t object in any way to any of my questions,” he said.” The only thing that matters to me is that she wasn’t offended. It didn’t bother her.”
Sexually abuse is an extremly delicate issue. An issue in which a victim selects someone who they can trust to tell their story. In this case, this lady trusted one of Australia’s public personalities, a man who she had listened to for a long period of time. The question is; did he let her down?
Being a radio personality or a shock jock, you have the power to provoke opinion; you have the power to give your view. With that power there are responsibilities, the responsibility to provide the correct information to your listeners. With Derryn Hinch, he crossed the line of how much info you can give out and he was legally punished. Kyle Sandilands called a female journalist “Fat and a liar” and he was publicly punished and got a taste of his own medicine. In the case of the royal prank phone call, the world punished the two DJs.