Will Aussie radio have its #metoo moment?

Photo credit: Mihai Surdu on Unsplash


Content WarningThis article covers sexual assault & harassment and may be triggering for some readers. If you or someone you know are affected by the following story, you are not alone. To speak to someone, you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14, or 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732.


With the Australian music industry making noise this week about sexual harassment and assault within its ranks, is it time the drum beat gets a bit louder for Australian radio’s reckoning? Here, Vivienne Kelly Radio Today’s editor – and fierce advocate of both women and radio – shares her experiences, and sheds light on why the whispers haven’t yet become a chorus.

When I first started writing about Australian media, marketing and advertising back in 2016, people were in equal parts fascinated and frustrated that I’d come from the outside.

A real estate reporter telling Australian media’s bigwigs what’s up (and indeed what’s down and what’s around)? The audacity!

And yet, while my credentials caused sustained skepticism, there was also a persistent preoccupation with what I may have seen. What I may know. What I may have been exposed to.

The media industry seemed to have a deep need to know – or at least be told – that it wasn’t as slimy as the real estate sector.

The most persistent question I had in meetings, at events and in casual conversations towards the beginning of my tenure was some variant of: “But who’s worse: us or real estate agents?”

Many were, of course, fishing, and wanted my fawning adoration – a confirmation that I had left the dodgy deals and sleazebags behind, that I was #tooblessedtobestressed and that even if the media did have a dark and raging undercurrent of sexism, discrimination and abuse, at least it wasn’t as bad as those slimy property peddlers.

What I didn’t, and indeed couldn’t, say at the time though was this: media is worse. Way worse.

At some point in 2017, I drafted an opinion piece outlining the many and varied instances of sexism, harassment and even abuse that I’d been subjected to since joining the media and marketing event circuit.

I inevitably decided not to publish it, or even submit it. I was already facing such antagonism and apathy that I figured adding Vivienne ‘Friend of the Real Estate Agents’ Kelly to my list of perceived flaws was a further stigma I didn’t need.

I was, however, able to write about an incident in a taxi after a work event, partly because the perpetrator was so unidentifiable and partly because the media industry could read it, be aghast, be sympathetic, be horrified, but not actually have to confront their own failings in this area.

An assault by a taxi driver after a media event is horrific and shines a spotlight on the inevitable and deeply unfair risks women take in being out and about as part of the media’s booze, celebration and late-night culture. Yet it’s far enough removed from the industry that nobody feels the need to change anything.

Taxi drivers shouldn’t assault people. Bad taxi drivers. Simple.

After this piece, however, I would have young women in media catch my eye from across the room at events, and then spend a sustained period of time contemplating whether or not to come over. More often than not they crept over and would then tearily thank me for sharing my story and in turn share their own.

Hearing these stories only compounded my guilt about just how many stories I was sitting on – both my own, and those of others.

The problem, I can assure you, is not limited to the music sector, the real estate industry or rogue taxi drivers. It’s all around you.

If we go back to 2017, part of what inspired my op ed which never saw the light of day was something which occurred at a radio event.

A man – let’s call him an audio executive for the sake of all-encompassing vagueness – had somehow convinced himself that I thought he was gay. Hand on heart, his sexual preferences and proclivities had never crossed my mind.

He became doggedly determined to get me to acknowledge that he was ‘straight’. My deep disinterest in engaging with this train of thought seemed only to egg him on further.

It reached the point where, when I was ordering a drink, he snuck up behind me and pinned me to the bar. I couldn’t move, but I also couldn’t turn around without twisting myself in ways only available to Cirque du Soleil performers. Plus, even if I managed this, our nether regions would be pressed against each other and I had every reason to believe he was going to force his tongue down my throat.

So instead, I got to feel his excitement from behind as he rubbed against me, licked my ear and whispered “What do I have to do to you to convince you I’m not gay?”

His hands then went places they were not invited nor welcome.

I genuinely can’t remember how I removed myself from the bar – perhaps I am a circus performer after all – but I do remember then ‘smoke bombing’ from the event and dissociatively walking back to my hotel room.

The next day, my boss at the time advocated and agitated for my permission to send an email to the creep’s employer, but my 20-something-year-old brain couldn’t handle being seen as ‘that’ girl so early on as the public face of the publishing brand.

It wasn’t my fault – I knew that then and I know that now – but I was young, and didn’t want to be defined by another man’s actions.

So, I shut it down. To this day, I’m not sure how I feel about my decision.

So often the trade media is accused of being complicit in the coverup and not sharing these stories. In many instances, we ‘know’ about alleged perpetrators, we’ve heard the stories and we’ve seen the (unpublished) comments, the story goes. Plus, we’ve likely been subjected to it ourselves and then ‘done nothing’ about it, as I demonstrated back in 2017.

It’s further complicated by the fact that not only do we know about these problems, we then often have to speak to the perpetrators in a business context. These are powerful people. Their voices shape the stories we tell.

Each time we talk to these high-powered men then, we are – according to this logic – furthering their careers, helping them squash their victims’ voices and ignoring the realities of what’s really going on.

Yet you only have to look at major media players including the former Fairfax papers (now Nine), the ABC and News Corp, and defamation action from the likes of Geoffrey Rush, Craig McLachlan, former Attorney General Christian Porter and Ben Roberts-Smith to know that levying accusations of sexual assault and violence needs to be backed by not just a warchest of facts, but also one filled to the brim with cash.

Indeed before former AdNews editor Rosie Baker departed in 2018, industry speculation was rife that her parting gift would be a long list of the ad industry’s Mad Men and Bad Men (my words, not hers).

In her final days, she wrote a piece titled ‘Why haven’t we broken a story about Australian advertising’s Weinstein yet?

“With great gusto last year I wanted to publish, to name names and hold these individuals to account. It’s one of my biggest regrets that at the end of this week I will leave AdNews, not having done so. The investigation doesn’t end with me, but there are a great many complexities at hand,” she lamented.

“Knowing something is true and being passionate about a cause is very different to being able to publish it.”

She also summed up why the #metoo moment may not have properly taken off here.

“I desperately want individuals who have behaved so poorly to get what they deserve. I want them to be removed from their positions, to be publicly shamed and for everyone to know what despicable behaviour they are capable of. But only If it can be done responsibly, with 100% legal integrity that protects the accusers and the publication.”

Still to this day, trade journos generally agree on who would have been on that list. Many don’t even lower their voices when talking about him anymore, such is the general agreement that he’s a perpetrator and predator.

These journalists, however, many of them junior, simply don’t have the power or the profile to destroy Australia’s media elite. All they can do is subtly silence these power players by providing less of an outlet for them.

So I was shocked when one of the ad industry’s ‘open secrets’ – who I thought we had all implicitly agreed we’d steer clear of to minimise his profile – has been given a prominent platform once more in recent weeks.

Trade media journos are exposed to a lot on the event circuit, but there’s often little they can do about it (Photo by The Climate Reality Project on Unsplash)

There are whispers, but those whispers haven’t yet been amplified to a level loud enough to affect change.

The same goes for radio at the moment.

There are whispers a major media outlet could be working on radio’s big #MeToo expose, and already there are rumblings about who, when and where.

The whispers about who aren’t new though, and again that trend among the media is emerging where people are keeping their voices a little less quiet when comparing notes, not looking over their shoulder as much to check who can hear them (the assumption being that people likely already know anyway), and they’re preparing the the warchest.

The moment might not be here just yet, but the drum beat is getting louder.


Do you have a story you’d like to share or a question you’d like to ask? You can confidentially email Vivienne Kelly (vivienne@take2media.com.au) with the subject line ‘Radio #metoo’ to start the discussion.

If you need assistance after reading this article, you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14, or 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732.


 

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Recent comments (47)
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Lisa
12 May 2021 - 1:25 pm

The bigest problem with the “me too” movement is that any man who has an allegation made against him, is now automatically considered guilty

Look at what has happened to Craig McLaughlin

Me Too
12 May 2021 - 1:27 pm

Great article. Radio really needs its #metoo moment.

There are so many stories that have not been told about people still working in the indsutry. Victims have been silenced and it is not right.

There is one executive at a radio company who is known to send photos of his genitals to young women. There is another who is known to be a giant creep once he has had a few drinks.

These people need to be held accountable. Not protected.

@Lisa
12 May 2021 - 1:33 pm

What are you talking about? Craig McLaughlin was acquitted on a legal technicality.

CJ.
12 May 2021 - 2:22 pm

… the problem with articles like this is that, by not naming names, you’ve effectively defamed every bloke working in the industry …

Call it out
12 May 2021 - 2:23 pm

Hey Vivienne, have you ever been bullied or harassed by another woman?

I certainly have!

    12 May 2021 - 5:15 pm

    Hi ‘Call it out’,

    Thank you for the (rather direct) question. No I have not.

    I do know people who have been, however in the absence of their permission, it is not my story to tell.

    Sorry to hear this has happened to you. If you would like to share your story, my email address is available at the bottom of this story.

    As it stands though, I personally have nothing to call out in this area.

    Vivienne – Radio Today

IJustGetAlongBetterWithBoys
12 May 2021 - 2:25 pm

@Lisa I’d have thought the biggest problem was the amount of women being sexually assaulted, harassed and discriminated against but go off.

Concerned
12 May 2021 - 3:17 pm

The amount of conversations that are happening out ‘here’ amongst those people that have been emotionally abused and discarded like trash by this radio executive is unbelievable. All now freely talking and sharing stories. And the one common thing about all of these people is that they no longer work at the company but he still does. You can’t abuse your position of power and treat so many people the way he has for so long and not face consequences. The clock is ticking

Insider
12 May 2021 - 3:52 pm

The word on the street is that he is going around saying that he will unload what he knows about the very very top brass if he is not protected. Might explain why he is still there

Pete
12 May 2021 - 4:43 pm

You guys need to stop talking in riddles and start naming names or at least networks otherwise you have no credibility

    12 May 2021 - 5:12 pm

    Pete: Reads an article about someone’s experience of abuse which also outlines the limitations of naming/ shaming and the very big personal and professional risks this would involve.

    ….

    Pete: Decides to comment telling that person they have no credibility.

    Come on, Pete – be better!

#metoo
12 May 2021 - 4:54 pm

A #metoo for Australian radio is so overdue it hurts

Gill
12 May 2021 - 5:21 pm

Well said Vivienne

@Pete. You’re a moron

Pete
12 May 2021 - 5:36 pm

Hey Viv, I think its a great story.

I just don’t like it when there are no names or networks mentioned because it casts doubts over everybody

    13 May 2021 - 12:14 pm

    Unfortunately it’s the reality of the legal landscape we operate in, Pete.

    You can tune into this week’s podcast to hear more about the insidious and powerful forces at work here, as well as why I believe my hands are tied in this instance. I suspect you might hate it, but who knows – sometimes you really surprise me.

    You can listen here. I do my best to outline my reasoning.

    Enjoy (or don’t, haha).
    Viv

Bec
12 May 2021 - 5:44 pm

@Gill

Why call Pete a moron because he has a different opinion to you

Isn’t this the type is bullying behaviour we are trying to eradicate in the industry??

Gill
12 May 2021 - 5:54 pm

@Bec (funny name for a guy)

Important to outline the context of my comment. The definition of moron is a person who lacks judgement. Given Vivienne clearly laid out why she didn’t name the person or network in the article I believed Pete lacked judgment in his comment. But again that was just my opinion.

Lisa
12 May 2021 - 7:13 pm

@Gill

Funny name for a guy? Oh please

My point is that many people in the industry do not speak out on issues because they know they will just be put down, as vindicated by your own actions

For goodness sake, just try and have a discussion without the name calling

Kate
13 May 2021 - 7:09 am

We all know who he is.

Meshel Laurie
13 May 2021 - 7:37 am

Thank you Vivienne and to everyone in support of this movement.
Let’s not forget the female execs who protected and elevated the perpetrators and discarded the women they bullied and abused.

A talented person
13 May 2021 - 8:25 am

There is a day of reckoning coming for the network. The dozens of choices that were made to dump so many talented people in favour of protecting one person will soon come back to haunt.

Seriously
13 May 2021 - 8:56 am

Dont worry Pete and CJ, we only think that about the legitimate creeps so don’t be one? Then you’ll be sweet.

I hope you’re both sleeping ok at night, unlike the actual victims of this

Spellcheck
13 May 2021 - 9:09 am

Say what you wnat about Craig McLaughlin, but at least spell his name right. It’s Craig McLachlan.

Peter Johnson
13 May 2021 - 9:48 am

Everyon seems to know who he is except me?

It's not my place
13 May 2021 - 10:07 am

As a man in media, I have never been so disheartened by the response on numerous occasions by both male and female managers regarding emotional, financial, and physical abuse within our industry. Each time, it is the same, “it’s not your place”, “it’s not your fight”.

I get it, you want us to pay our dues, that does not mean we need to watch women and men alike be bullied, harassed and gaslit into submission just to progress. The enablers are just as bad as the perpetrators.

For all the people worried about #metoo being a lynching. I’d say, I’m all for due process, but the women and men who have been treated like rubbish and discarded by our industry were not afforded the same. The movement to me is about identifying the vile actions of a few that permeate the many right across the industry and removing them.

It’s time.

See you later
13 May 2021 - 10:09 am

I for one welcome the coming clean out and expose of these creeps. As a bloke in the industry who has nothing to hide these guys are tarnishing the name of all men who are doing the right thing.

You know who you are and you better strap in because when it happens it will be swift and public.

Alice
13 May 2021 - 11:10 am

I know a lot of very good male execs at this network that have been severely affected by this guy. Some very talented and very senior ones at that. So it’s important to note that it’s not isolated to just women.

Sonia
13 May 2021 - 11:40 am

Someone is going to have to tell me who this exec is otherwise I will go crazy guessing

Can we have initials?

    13 May 2021 - 12:09 pm

    I wouldn’t legally be allowed to publish initials, unfortunately, but I appreciate the creative thinking.

    Vivienne – Radio Today

Keep them accountable
13 May 2021 - 11:52 am

Everyone in this comment section knows who the bully at that particular network is. His day of reckoning is coming. Sooner rather than later.

There are bad executives at the other networks too! In particular, two men at one company who love to bully and belittle staff. And also are super creepy to younger women.

S
13 May 2021 - 12:30 pm

Vivienne, could you please let us know if this person is working in a regional or capital city market?

    18 May 2021 - 4:05 pm

    Hi S,

    No, I cannot.

    It’s also worth noting there’s more than one perpetrator in the industry (in fact this article alone refers to two), so playing 20 questions is not really the point of this article or the ensuing discussion.

    Thanks,
    Vivienne – Radio Today

x
13 May 2021 - 12:34 pm

@Sonia

I didn’t know who it was last night but it only took 2 phone calls to find out. And now it makes perfect sense.

Talent
13 May 2021 - 12:53 pm

There’s going to be a celebration amongst my colleagues when he goes

All Grown Up
13 May 2021 - 1:34 pm

Starting in the radio industry in my late teens was an eye opening experience. The way i was treated and my colleagues were treated, was quite destressing – to say the least. Being so young and vulnerable, I was “taught” that this behaviour was normal and acceptable. I wish i knew what i know now, and had the courage to stand up for myself….

Anon
13 May 2021 - 2:09 pm

The fact that this man has been allowed to hold his position for so many years – and that he allowed certain talent to operate in exactly the same manner as he did is reprehensible.

Producers, Program Directors, Promotions Directors, Promotion Coords, Publicists and other station staff openly raised the behaviour of this Senior Exec and a certain talent but all of the people who stood up to these bullies (or tried to) strangely no longer have jobs…

Down and Out
13 May 2021 - 2:27 pm

There are no ramifications for Bully’s, i was bullied in commercial radio to the point were this staff member said i was assaulting them with no evidence at all, i had witnesses that said it didn’t happen and i lost my job over it , was told i believe them over everyone else, and the network backed this bully and said its all in my head…. i was very low and at times i lost everything, was told by the fair work that i would have to take them to court to get any action.

Record label
13 May 2021 - 3:14 pm

I’m a female that works at a record label. I know exactly who is being referred to in this article. The behavior I have seen by this person during the listening sessions and then afterwards at the drinking session is disgusting. He thrives on the power of the men’s club whilst the women are just treated as ornaments. We dread the days he visits the label.

Murphy
13 May 2021 - 3:36 pm

@Peter – I have no idea either. A couple of names spring to mind (sadly) but I don’t think I’m correct.

Record Label
13 May 2021 - 8:13 pm

I too work at a record label and cannot stand when two men from a particular radio network come to our events. Our whole team are aware of their behaviour and plan around it. They are drunken, handsy, misogynistic brutes who think they can get away with anything.

Their macho bravado doesn’t give you a good feeling. Can’t wait for them to be kicked out of the industry.

Seriously?
13 May 2021 - 8:39 pm

No, @Lisa, the problem with the me too movement is how many men are abusing and attacking women, and how hard it is to have been believed. Get a grip.

hey siri
13 May 2021 - 11:30 pm

Ya’ll actin like you’ve never done show prep before. I just googled “australian radio sexual assault”. This isn’t new information.

Woman in the industry
14 May 2021 - 9:00 am

If the radio network involved doesn’t take action against this exec then aren’t they saying it is ok to bully, harass, intimidate, emotionally and sexually abuse, undermine and then ultimately emotionally wreck. Time to listen to the many many victims over the one perpetrator

Grahame Lynch
14 May 2021 - 9:23 am

Great article, I hope you get to the destination to where you and other women can get some justice on this

First Hand Experience
14 May 2021 - 10:42 am

I have been witness to this man’s bullying and have watched talented people leave the business (and industry).

The Radio industry has lost so many talented men and women who were passionate leaders that believed in their respective stations, talent and teams. The industry has lost these people for good – all because of one man who is protected because of how much money the stations make their CEO (past and present) and owners…

HR
14 May 2021 - 11:18 am

I’m sure he’s blaming HR for not doing a good enough job of getting rid of those pesky disgruntled subordinates. Just another department to clean up your mess

Female agency boss
14 May 2021 - 12:46 pm

Can someone who knows who this person is and what he has done first hand please explain how he hasn’t been outed after so many years of bullying and abusing people?

We need to learn lessons from this for the future so we don’t allow it to happen again.

Jobs

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