Kyle and Jackie O may have shocked their last jock
It might be a military doctrine best remembered from the 2003 invasion of Iraq, but “shock and awe” could just as easily describe the latest warfare by TV and radio stations in the battle for ratings.
The Austereo network’s Kyle Sandilands and Jackie O have become the most notorious exponents of this tactic on the airwaves in the past few weeks.
But just as in war, even the best laid plans can backfire when they are unleased on the battlefield.
The incident in which the Sydney brekkie duo attached a lie detector to an unwilling teen victim, allowing her mother to question her about her sexual experiences, and the girl’s emotional cry that she was raped, was the unscripted shock that is still dogging Kyle and Jackie.
After a brief “break” from on-air responsibilities, the radio warriors were back on 2Day FM in Sydney last week, apologetic but not promising to necessarily change their shock and awe ways.
However, the public clamour calling for their heads was still ringing in the ears of station bosses, not helped by news of an inquiry by broadcasting watchdog, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).
On Friday, the latest decision was made to replace Kyle and Jackie O’s national Hour of Power on weeknights with former Hi-5 children’s entertainer Charli Delaney.
Online news sites were still buzzing over the affair that had sparked this decision, with opinion split about Kyle and Jackie O’s guilt or innocence.
Javaluva of Adelaide summarised their predicament on the Adelaide Now site:
“Kyle and Jackie O’s style of program is only a symptom of the shock and ridicule style of entertainment prevalent in shows like Big Bro, Chaser, the Footy Show, Gordon Ramsay - the list goes on. Kyle and Jackie’s problem was they crossed the line - true, it was a line they didn’t see coming. But all these entertainers have been pushing very close (too close) to that line for a long time. Their ratings depend on how close they can get and how far they can push it - and it was inevitable someone would trip over it. I have no sympathy for them or those who follow them into the abyss. They are playing with fire and they should know it.”
And it seems ratings and money do talk, as another online commenter claiming to be a 2Day FM advertising client said:
“Advertising dollars may well be determined by ratings, but we advertisers know to get out when the air stinks and the majority are outraged. We expect more of radio station management than to allow such stupid stunts. Our dollar goes elsewhere until they learn there’s a limit.”
Tim of Adelaide was not convinced the advertisers would stay away, adding:
“I can’t believe the radio stations have bowed to the pressure of a few advertisers. Sure there might be a short-term dollar drop. But advertising dollars are determined by the show’s ratings. And let’s face it, there are very few people who would not listen to Kyle and Jackie O now that would have before. Even if there was a short drop in ratings of 1 or 2 per cent, give it a few months and it will go back to normal.”
But Frederick Steyn, writing on The Courier-Mail site, predicted time was running out for Kyle and Jackie.
“You can’t treat people the way you have and not expect it to come back at you. There will be few tears for Kyle and Jackie O. Only a matter of time before they disappear altogether.”
Radio is not the only medium in the shock and awe business. Just months after The Chaser’s War on Everything (now ceremoniously deceased) was criticised for screening a sketch on the ABC about sick children’s dying wishes, a skit on Channel 7 comedy show Double Take about school bullies and teen suicide has outraged mental health experts.
JC, in a comment posted on news.com.au, said:
“Everyone talks about political correctness. But I doubt they’d be defending this show if they knew even one person who had committed suicide.”
A comment posted by Disgusted on Perth Now called for greater restrictions on the media:
“The media must be more sensitive to the population’s feelings. I think that there should be some restrictions on the media as to what is acceptable or unacceptable to be aired. Although this is a free country, remember at the end of the day, their ‘freedom’ will become the ‘headache’ of the community.”
Channel 9 had its own dramas after it was reprimanded last week by ACMA over a report on A Current Affair in which the program was found to have tried to hypnotise its viewers.
Paddy of Melbourne thought the Nine Network got off too lightly, writing on the Herald Sun site:
“It is about time one of these media companies paid a price for stunts that break the code under which they operate. If they simply get slaps on the wrist they will continue to churn out this sort of rubbish.”
Heartstopper added on Adelaide Now:
“The whole show is pretty much like Kyle and Jackie O. Absolute rubbish.”
Shock and awe might initially have a strategic battle advantage, but now that everyone in the media seems to be doing it, how far can it go and where will it end? The collateral damage is mounting.
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