Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Triple M and "unacceptable" voices

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Radio station Triple M has been in the news over the last couple of months, for a variety of reasons.

Most recently, Network head Mike Fitzpatrick made the bold decision to ban all KISS songs from playlists around the country, due to being very KISSed off at comments from Gene Simmons about mental health. During a July 31 interview, Simmons said,

“…the world is a harsh place. My mother was in a concentration camp in Nazi Germany. I don’t want to hear fuck all about ‘the world as a harsh place.’ She gets up every day, smells the roses and loves life. And for a putz, 20-year-old kid to say, ‘I’m depressed, I live in Seattle.’ Fuck you, then kill yourself.”

The comments weren’t given much consideration at first, until they resurfaced after the tragic death of Robin Williams. Which was when an obviously angry Fitzpatrick pulled all KISS songs, calling the comments “misguided and insensitive” and challenged other stations in Australia and North America to do the same.

There is no doubt that Simmons’ comments were incredibly thoughtless and unacceptable, and it is Triple M’s prerogative to ban the band from their station.

Nevertheless, it will be curious to see what the station will do from this point on, having drawn a clear line in the sand. The gravity of the comments by Simmons is not in question, mental health is not a topic we should take lightly.

But would the comments have drawn such animosity if it weren’t for the tragedy of Robin Williams’ death? Will similar comments on grave topics from musicians featured on the station receive the same response in the future? Nobody suggested banning Simmons when he recently defended horrible racist Donald Sterling because, as Simmons explained, everyone says “off-colour jokes” when they are drunk, nor has the suggestion been made after any other controversial statements he has made throughout his career.

Of course, Simmons isn’t alone in his poor behaviour outside his music. Triple M favourites includes Tommy Lee, who once spent 90 days in jail for beating Pamela Anderson, AND Vince Neil, who was once arrested and accepted a plea bargain for domestic violence. In 2012, Seth Binzer from the band Crazytown (played on Triple M) was convicted of domestic violence. If a member of a rock band is arrested for assault or similar in the future, will the station take that as seriously?

The station’s own employees have also been involved in their share of controversy. Eddie McGuire, a host on Triple M, went unpunished after suggesting that AFL player Adam Goodes promote the King Kong musical, just days after Goodes was called an “ape” by an AFL supporter in an ugly episode of racism.

It will be very interesting to see what actions Triple M and Mike Fitzpatrick will take in relation to future incidents by musicians and people involved with the station.

In July, Triple M Melbourne released a promo shot celebrating the number one rating for their breakfast show. The promo shot featured 25 men, without the hint of one single woman (or a married one). Not surprisingly the shot attracted a lot of attention, and not the pat-on-the-back kind the station was obviously courting.

After getting obviously annoyed by the comments, Austereo’s Chief Content Officer Guy (lol) Dobson pointed out that Triple M is a “…male-skewed, football-calling network,” and that most of the men in the picture were former players with inside knowledge.

Ignoring the fact that rare, fragile creatures exist called ‘women’ who are also football players, three of the men in the most prominent positions in the photo were Mick Molloy, Joe Hildebrand and Matt Tilley, none of whom have a playing history. The weakness of this reasoning is more readily apparent when you realise that Triple M Melbourne and Triple M Brisbane each only list one female presenter on their major shows (off-season or fill-ins not included). All other positions across the networks and cities are filled by men, according to their own website.

But even if the station is targeting a male audience, this doesn’t mean that women should be excluded from the station. Rock music and football are not solely the domains of men, and including more women who are ex-football players, sports journalists, musicians, music experts, female comedians, or just good female radio hosts is not impossible, and I doubt that it would scare off the male audience who already listen to the station. If I were a man who is a fan of Triple M, I would be insulted that the station thinks so little of me that it assumes I wouldn’t want to hear the perspective and voices of women.

Of course, this is not a problem that is restricted to Triple M. Women comprise just 17 per cent of the weekday presenters on the major metro talkback stations across Australia.

The dominance of this particular type of personality in presenting roles on these kinds of commercial radio stations is surely key to the popularity of podcasting, which will only continue to rise.

How many times can you possibly listen to Kyle and Jackie O be absolutely disgraceful toward women – most recently asking sports journalist Erin Molan how many players she has slept with (among other things) – before people will start to switch off? Before there were other avenues and media of entertainment for consumption, people had to switch to other radio stations that might not have been much better.

You can currently carry around a device full of your favourite songs, and this, in combination with almost unlimited access to easily downloadable podcasts, ensures radio will become less important. Podcasts give you the ability to access the minds of people who aren’t represented in the mainstream. You can listen to podcasts on literally almost any topic you can think of. You can listen to the voices of people in different countries, of different sexes, genders, races, and sexualities. Podcasting gives you the option to never listen to a straight white man again if you so choose (and why wouldn’t you).

If more people start demanding diversity of views and opinions and representations, and start switching off stations like Triple M and switch on a podcast instead, maybe radio stations will start listening to us instead.

Rebecca Shaw

Rebecca is primary caregiver and confidant to Tippi, the best cat in the world. She also likes writing bad jokes on twitter @brocklesnitch