On George FM this morning, Breakfast producer Noel resigned during the broadcast, one celebrating Kara and Thane’s fifth anniversary on air. “I quit: how’s that for your happy birthday,” he says live on air, “I’ve got nothing positive to say to you.”
Thane responded by suggesting they get a refugee in on work experience to replace him. There’s a definite chance this is a radio stunt, but my fingers are crossed it’s a continued part of the uprising against the type of ratings-driven on-air bullying that merges during survey time.
The resignation came after a torrid day for the station, during which a regular segment called ‘social media intervention went badly awry. Yesterday on the station’s George FM Breakfast show, the segment received complaints from its subjects, who accused the station of sexist on-air bullying. As first reported on bFM’s The Wire, the station referred to a group of women as “Do Nothing Bitches” – defined by Breakfast host Kara as “girls who post half naked pictures on their instagram and talk about refugees and gun control – it’s all a bit stupid really.” The hosts targeted the social media accounts of specific New Zealand women, revealing their full names and referring to such women as “rank” and “hoes”.
The feature was was offensive on multiple levels: slut shaming and degrading to women who choose to post photos of themselves online, but also insinuating that their appearance renders them incapable of also having views about world issues. Thane doesn’t mind these women on instagram too much though:
After the segment aired, one of the targets of the instagram “intervention”, Keely, currently overseas, got in touch with George FM through a text message to her friend. Keely stated in her message that she had no reason to be ashamed of her body, and that “it was the 21st century and blah blah blah” (Kara’s paraphrasing, not mine). They then rang the friend for a chat, the main topic investigated being whether or not she had seen Keely naked before.
Later, the hosts contacted Keely herself in Canada. “You have spectacular breasts”, said Thane, almost immediately. “I am all about empowering my body… girls should be empowered and love their body,” she replied. It’s a sound defence, necessary discourse that you seldom hear in response to the sexist content that can come out of commercial radio.
Keely also revealed that she suffered from an eating disorder, which is part of the reason she is so body positive online. “I’d love you to feature in our calendar,” says Thane, by way of a response.
Later yesterday on 95bFM, Keely was interviewed about the ordeal by host Anna Bracewell-Worrall. Keely revealed the hosts were cordial on the phone, but after she hung up they changed tack again. “Even after I told her that I had an eating disorder and that’s why I love my body now and want to show it off, the only words she [Kara] used to describe girls like that was ‘slut’ and a car that was gorgeous on the outside but has high miles.”
Hearing comments like these after she had spoken up for herself live on air drove her to tears. “The first thing I did was cry, I’ve never been bullied that much… especially from two hosts who have such a big platform and are grown adults.”
This sort of harassment as entertainment is nothing new in commercial radio, especially during survey time. But what is different here is the fearless reaction to the segment by its victims. In immediately speaking up, going staunchly head to head with the hosts live on air and then following up with a lengthy news interview on a competitive station, the commercial stations are being faced with the individual faces, voices and opinions of their amorphous abstract audience – and directly challenged on social media.
Keely intends to lay a complaint to MediaWorks and the Broadcasting Standards Authority. The breakfast hosts Thane and Kara apologised for the segment on air today, their fifth birthday.
UPDATE: The official comment from George FM this morning was that “The character of Noel the producer that appeared on the George FM Breakfast show has been retired.” To recap, the station came under fire for serious allegations of bullying yesterday, and today have had a fake character resign as a smokescreen for the real controversy.