Radio star Kyle Sandilands breached decency standards with controversial remarks about the Virgin Mary, the Australian Communications and Media Authority has ruled.
Sandilands sparked uproar in September 2019 after alleging in an episode of Kyle & Jackie O on KIIS FM that the Virgin Mary was probably impregnated “behind the camel shed”.
“I thought Mary was his [Jesus’] girlfriend but apparently it was the mother,” he said on air.
“The mother lied obviously and told everyone, ‘Nah I got pregnant by a magical ghost’. Bulls–t.”
He also said those who believed stories in the Bible were “dumb”.
“You might believe everything that was written down 2000 years ago to be absolutely accurate. Good on you, you’re dumb. Dumb as dog s–t,” he said.
The broadcast watchdog received 180 complaints about the episode. On Tuesday it said it had found that KIIS breached decency rules, but not rules relating to inciting hatred and severe ridicule because of religion.
ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin said Sandilands had “overstepped the mark” in terms of generally accepted standards of decency.
“Australians are generally tolerant of irreverent humour and critical discussion about religion,” she said.
“But they would not expect a host of a broadcast program to derisively criticise people’s intelligence because of their religious beliefs.”
The investigation found that the high threshold for a breach of rules relating to inciting hatred and severe ridicule because of religion was not reached.
“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,” Ms O’Loughlin said.
Sandilands apologised on air for his comments, shortly after he made them.
“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,” he said last September.
ACMA noted the apology, as well as a statement issued by KIIS FM at the time, and that the recording had been removed from its website.
It said KIIS had counselled Mr Sandilands and pledged to ensure its staff legal compliance training referenced the broadcast and breach findings.
KIIS’s owner, the Australian Radio Network, said it accepted the findings. It said it had recognised the sensitivity of the broadcast at the time, and acknowledged the 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,” a spokesperson said.
“Australia’s Christian and Muslim faith leaders accepted Kyle’s apology, which was also published in a public joint statement.”