While the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) thinks calling somebody a wanker is disrespectful, it won't necessarily breach the Commercial Radio Codes of Practice.

Back in May, Joyce wanted to protect Australia by euthanizing Johnny Depp’s dogs. The dogs (and maybe Johnny Depp) could have rabies. Nek minnit, Joyce was being called a wanker and a gerbil by Sandilands in a radio interview. Joyce complained to ACMA.

Dismissing Joyce’s complaint, ACMA relied on these provisions in the Code:

  • Code 1.3(a) - whether the program offended generally accepted standards of decency; and
  • Code 9.1(a) - whether the participant in the program was treated in a highly demeaning or highly exploitative manner.

Does the decision mean every radio host can call Joyce a wanker?

Not necessarily. It is all about context. For Code 1.3(a) breaches, ACMA takes into account the demographics of the program's audience. ACMA said that Sandilands’ regular audience would understand how the word is used, nonsexually, in the Australian vernacular (eg: Jarryd is such a wanker ay!). They would also be accustomed to, and accommodating of, the language used by Sandilands or, as Joyce put it, the ‘number one clown on radio’. ACMA found that, while some people would have been offended by the word ‘wanker’, its colloquial use in the context of the program was not unsuitable for broadcast.

Code 9.1(a) was introduced a few a years ago to protect children in the context of live programs. Probably something to do with Sandilands thinking it was a good idea to submit a 14 year old girl to a lie detector test live on air (it wasn’t a good idea). However, if an adult participant consents and is informed about the content there will be no breach. For Joyce, ACMA didn’t even need to look at the issue of consent because the word ‘highly’ sets a high threshold for material to be in breach. Being called a wanker during a political debate that got a little hairy didn’t cross that threshold.

ACMA didn't comment on the amusement factor of listening to two intellectual giants of the stature of Kyle and Barnaby debating public policy with four letter words, and neither will we.