A MediaWorks radio show has been pilloried by the Broadcasting Standards Authority for two interviews which exploited a family, endangered their safety and breached their privacy "for the purpose of titillation".

The complaint centred on an interview that aired on The Rock's Thane and Dunc show on May 31, in which a man (X) disclosed that he had had a relationship with a couple, JN and Y, and that the relationship had been abusive.

X had been blocked on phone and social media but continued trying to contact the pair, making them feel unsafe and anxious.

The next day show hosts Thane Kirby and Duncan Heyde interviewed X again, this time interrogating him about his behaviour and demanding he apologise to the couple and make no further attempts to contact them.


JN then complained to the BSA that the second interview breached the couple's privacy - a complaint that MediaWorks accepted. However the broadcaster asserted that only a few people would have been able to identify the couple, who were not named during either interview.

JN had called the radio station before the broadcast and believed she had received assurances the interview would not air; she also sent several Facebook messages asking for a second interview to be canned. The hosts claimed they had not read the messages prior to broadcast.

The BSA considered in its decision whether the complainant's right to privacy outweighed the radio show's right to freedom of expression.

It decided the interview involved "a very serious breach of broadcasting standards with little, if any, sensitivity or respect shown for the dignity, safety, reputation and mental well-being of the parties involved".

It found people close to JN and Y were able to identify them based on details of the broadcast.

"The couple did not expect these particular details of their relationship to be broadcast on national radio. This was highly personal information about sensitive details of their relationship."

The broadcaster asserted the second interview - in which the man was confronted about abusive behaviour - was in the public interest.

But the BSA strongly disputed that claim, pointing out the first interview "was clearly undertaken for the purpose of titillation and clearly exploitative of the individuals involved".


The tone of the first interview was "voyeuristic and offensive" which was inconsistent with the hosts' purported intentions of acting in the public interest in the second interview.

The BSA also said it was not the role of The Rock or the hosts to confront X about his behaviour.

"We agree that the general issue of condemning domestic abuse is a matter of public importance, and should be challenged and discussed. However, by broadcasting these matters to a nationwide audience, the hosts removed the complainant's and Y's ability to deal with the situation as they wished."

The BSA also rebuked shock jock Kirby, who had previously been involved in a serious breach of broadcasting standards but, the BSA said, had failed to learn from the previous offence.

Kara Rickard and Thane Kirby, who were suspended from their George FM DJ roles in 2015 after being accused of slut-shaming women on air. A complaint was later upheld by the BSA. Photo/Supplied
Kara Rickard and Thane Kirby, who were suspended from their George FM DJ roles in 2015 after being accused of slut-shaming women on air. A complaint was later upheld by the BSA. Photo/Supplied

In 2016 Kirby and then-George FM co-host Kara Rickard were hit with an $8000 fine after "slut-shaming" women and calling them "do nothing b****es" on air.

The BSA has now ordered Mediaworks Radio to pay $3000 each to both JN and Y and to pay costs of $2500 to the Crown. It also encouraged the broadcaster to make a private apology to the complainants.

Mediaworks said in a statement that the radio station accepted the BSA's findings.

"[The Rock] would like to take this opportunity to reiterate the sincerity behind the broadcast - it was never the intention of the hosts or anyone else at The Rock to breach anyone's privacy."