Practive vs. code of practice: Kyle and Jackie-O

Practive vs. code of practice: Kyle and Jackie-O

Originally published @ upstart magazine July 30, 2009.

A day after my initial gagging reflex when hearing the ‘lie detector’ segment for the first time, I’m still feeling uneasy.   It remains, by far, the most disturbing thing I have ever heard on radio. One question I can’t get out my head: how did this mess get to air in the first place?

Kyle and Jackie-O’s ‘lie-detector’ segment on 2Day-FM ended in disaster on Wednesday morning, with a reluctant 14-year-old girl’s rape revelation. A mother wanted to put her daughter through the test to find out about her experiences with sex and drugs.  Allegedly, her daughter had snuck out of the house after going to bed one night and was later escorted home by police, and she had admitted to having smoked marijuana.

When the rape story finally came out, it turned out the mother had actually known about the assault for “a couple of months”. But, she had apparently failed to mention this to the show’s producers before going on air.  Mum Michelle also admitted, that in the two years since the rape, her daughter Rachel had received no form of professional counselling.  The harrowing minute-and-a-half that followed was a frightening display of poor parenting and even worse broadcasting standards.

Both the show’s hosts and 2Day FM General Manager Jenny Parkes all deny any knowledge of the rape prior to the live-to-air broadcast. Parkes issued a general statement about the incident that said: “All due care and consideration was given to the family and clearly we didn’t know anything about the incident.” The team also assured the national media that the girl is now receiving attention from police and the Department of Community Services.

In defence of the hosts and the show’s producers, even the most affectionate Kyle and Jackie-O haters must give them the benefit of the doubt in regards to not knowing about the rape before the segment went live.  The spotlight should rather be on the routines and procedures for getting people on the show – and how they’re being treated while they are on it.  It is hard to escape the sense of harassment here.  When the presenters introduce the 14-year-old girl strapped to the lie detector, her first words were: “I’m scared.”

Before introducing the girl, Jackie-O replayed parts of the introduction. The part ends with Jackie-O asking mother Michelle whether she thought her daughter, Rachel, was still a virgin. Mum replies: “I think she might have had sex before.”

Following this statement, a giggling Jackie-O, tells the audience: “We have her hooked up to the lie detector test. She’s not happy. [giggles] … I just saw her listening to that replay.”  Kyle then turns to Rachel asking her how she feels.  Her emotional state is confirmed by Charles the lie detector operator, before Kyle addresses the audience: “She is scared, everyone, yeah.”

When mum then goes on to ask her daughter if she has ever had sex, her daughter responds: “I’ve already told you the story about this … and don’t look at me and smile because it’s not funny.” She pauses and continues: “Oh, OK … I got raped when I was 12 years old.”

In a letter to The Punch, Kyle Sandilands later wrote: “We have had the lie detector thing on regularly for about six years. It’s a semi-regular segment on the show. We check with the mother before hand (sic), and go through the questions they want asked.”

This ‘procedure’ probably covers the show legally. After all, it was the mother who submitted her daughter to the test. But despite not mentioning the girl had been raped upon joining the show, the mother had said she was concerned about her daughter’s experiences with sex and drugs. It must have been obvious to the show what sort of questions her daughter would have to answer.

Regardless of a mother’s consent, is it OK to put 14-year-old girls in a situation where they have to tell all about their sexual experiences on live radio? Regardless of whether or not rape is in question?

Would such segment be OK if a girl only admitted to giving a 13-year-old ex-boyfriend an “innocent” handjob – and she had only done it once? Would it really make a difference in terms of content policy and code of practice?

How much did the girl know about what she was in for before she went live across Australia?

Where do we draw the line between public and private?  And, between entertainment and socio-pornography involving under-aged kids?

It will be an interesting aftermath, no doubt. And, with reference to all questions stated above, it will also be interesting to see whether the Prime Minister will care to make a statement about the incident, considering his  interest in Bill Henson’s art last year.

I digress.

In the end, it is not a question about form. It is a question about content.

And, perhaps also a question of why the show’s producer allowed the segment to keep running for a total of 90 seconds after the unfortunate 14-year-old told the nation she was raped two years ago.

Steinar Ellingsen tutors in several media and journalism subjects at La Trobe University, and is writing a Masters thesis exploring alternative communities in regional Australia. Click here to check out the blog of his project.

Update: Sunday, 2 August, 8:30 pm – The Kyle and Jackie O show has been suspended indefinitely. For more, see this ABC news report.

upstart has made an editorial decision not to link to the audio segment discussed in this article.

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