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Demons at Drivetime (1995)

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clip 'Rally for justice' education content clip 2

This clip chosen to be PG

Clip description

In a publicity stunt engineered by the radio station, a Perth 'shock jock’ radio announcer, Howard Sattler, invited his audience to a rally outside Parliament in 1991 to protest against juvenile crime.

When Sattler is confronted with the reality that the gathered crowd is a lynch mob he is taken aback. Richard Utting, barrister and ABC broadcaster and Steve Mickler, Culture and Communication Studies, Murdoch University, comment on the stunt. Mickler points out that in reality, the crime rate is falling.

Teacher’s notes

provided by The Le@rning FederationEducation Services Australia

This clip shows a rally held in 1991 to urge the Western Australian Government to take a tougher stance on juvenile crime after a number of deaths involving juveniles driving stolen cars. The clip begins with an intertitle: 'Howard Sattler’s radio campaign against juvenile car thieves culminated in a “Rally for Justice” outside the West Australian Parliament in 1991.’ It includes interviews with radio talkback host Howard Sattler, who incited the rally, as well as barrister and ABC radio broadcaster Richard Utting and academic Steve Mickler, both of whom claim that Sattler fanned fears about an increase in juvenile crime. Footage of the rally shows people holding placards with slogans such as 'AN EYE FOR AN EYE!’ and 'ADULT CRIME ADULT TIME’. Sattler is also shown addressing the crowd. The clip incorporates audio extracts from Sattler’s radio program.

Educational value points

  • In August 1991 about 30,000 people attended the 'rally for justice’ held outside the WA State Parliament to urge the Government to introduce tougher penalties for juvenile offenders. The rally followed a number of cases in which juveniles driving stolen cars were involved in accidents that caused deaths. The mainstream media and, in particular, talkback host Howard Sattler, led a sustained campaign against juvenile crime.
  • The clip indicates that 'The Sattler File’, a high-rating program on the radio station 6PR in Perth, gave extensive coverage to the issue. Sattler particularly focused on the death of Neville Wilson, a young man about to be married, who was fatally injured in a car crash involving a juvenile in a stolen car. Sattler denounced the sentence given to the driver as lenient (the 16-month sentence was in fact comparable to that given to adults for similar crimes) and devoted much airtime to the effect on Wilson’s family and fiancée.
  • Some commentators believe that Sattler helped create a perception that WA was in the grip of a juvenile crime wave. This perception provoked hostility towards young offenders, evident in the extreme sentiments expressed at the rally and on Sattler’s program, such as the listener who advocated hanging 'the bastards’ (when three youths were killed in a stolen car, Sattler said on air 'good riddance to bad rubbish’). The comment that 'any one of us could be next’ is suggestive of the fear the issue generated. Despite Sattler’s claims, there was in fact no significant increase in juvenile crime during the early 1990s.
  • Academic Steve Mickler dubbed the protest the 'rally for ratings’, suggesting that Sattler’s coverage of the issue was designed to increase audience share. So-called 'shock jock’ radio hosts rely on sensational or controversial issues to keep their listeners tuning in, often exploiting the fears and prejudices of the audience. Sattler’s ratings rose by about 30 per cent between the rally in August and the end of 1991.
  • The scale of the rally indicates the huge influence that 'shock jocks’ can have. The popularity of talkback radio means that the host can exert considerable sway over community opinion and political agendas. The year after the rally, in 1992, the WA Government introduced the Crime (Serious and Repeat Offenders) Sentencing Act, which imposed severe penalties on juvenile 'serious repeat offenders’, including mandatory terms in detention. The Act was intended as a deterrent, but car theft in fact increased after its introduction. The Act was criticised for contravening human rights and in 1994 it was replaced by the Young Offenders Act, which gave judges greater discretion in sentencing.
  • The clip suggests that juvenile crime was linked with young Indigenous Australians. Social welfare groups felt that Indigenous youths were demonised by the media and saw the push for tougher sentences as an attack on them. While the disproportionately large number of Indigenous Australian juvenile offenders has been seen as a systemic problem, with its roots in socioeconomic disadvantage and high unemployment, Sattler blamed a reliance on welfare, poor family values, a lenient justice system and social workers, whom he dismissed as 'do-gooders’. The Australian Broadcasting Tribunal has received numerous complaints about the treatment of Indigenous Australians by 'The Sattler File’.
  • In the images of the 'rally for justice’, one placard reads 'HAL JACKSON PUBLIC ENEMY No 1’. Judge Hal Jackson was President of the WA Children’s Court and was highly critical of the media’s coverage of the juvenile justice debate. Jackson refused to appear on 'The Sattler File’ after Sattler accused him on air of being too soft in sentencing juvenile offenders.
  • Talkback radio focuses on topical but sensational or controversial stories that will provoke extreme reactions and prompt calls to the program. Sensational stories are good for ratings in that they keep listeners tuned in; however, treatment of these stories tends to be superficial, emphasising sensational aspects rather than focusing on in-depth analysis or investigation. Most talkback hosts will take a stance on an issue rather than give objective coverage.

This clip starts approximately 17 minutes into the documentary.

This clip shows a rally held in 1991. The clip begins with an intertitle which reads ‘Howard Sattler’s radio campaign against juvenile car thieves culminated in a “Rally for Justice” outside the West Australian Parliament in 1991.’

It includes interviews with radio talkback host Howard Sattler, who incited the rally, as well as barrister and ABC radio broadcaster Richard Utting and academic Steve Mickler. The clip begins showing a large crowd at a rally and incorporates audio extracts from Sattler’s radio program.
Announcer The Sattler File has Western Australia talking.

Lady On June 19, my fiance, Neville Wilson, was killed by a car thief. If the laws are not changed, the next victim could be a member of your family.

Male caller All I can say is save the community some money and hang this bastard. You have any problems hanging him, I’ll do it. I’ll readily bloody do it.

Howard Sattler at rally You’re here because I believe you’re sick and tired of social workers and do-gooders and psychologists in the system…(crowd applauds).

Richard Utting His radio station was giving free publicity for the rally. As I understand it, his PR company was also behind it. He was playing on the emotions of people. There was a recording of Peter Blurton in the hospital bed, which was some string quartet backing to that which made it all very emotional. He managed very successfully to get people angry, to contribute to the anger of this vision of innocent people being killed on our streets unless we take tough action.

The clip cuts back to the rally where people are being interviewed.
Lady 2 They should be whipped. They’re getting away too light.

Lady 3 I want justice done for those wicked little gits.

Reporter Has anyone that you know been the victim of juvenile crime?

Lady 4 No. No. I just feel any one of us could be the next. You’re driving home at night, you don’t know when it’s your turn.

Steve Mickler We have to be very careful in presuming that this crime wave existed independently of its representation in the news media. Um, the statistical evidence is that, uh, in fact crime levels, the types of crimes that were so sensationalised in that period, did not significantly increase, that what we might have been looking at was in fact a media wave. The problem is that in that period, it was already firmly established that when we were talking about the crime wave, we were talking predominantly about Aboriginal crime.

Howard Sattler at rally No politicians will be speaking today, because we don’t want them to say any more. We’ve heard enough of that.

Howard Sattler in interview When I went up there and saw a sea of people – must have been about 30,000 people surrounding Parliament House, I felt fairly-fairly uneasy, I’ve got to tell you. Because all of a sudden I realised what a position I’d been placed in. These people largely had come there because I told them or asked them, implored them to go there. And now, to a degree, I had them in my hands. I could say things to them and they may do things that they would regret and I would regret later.

Clip ends showing the crowd applauding a the rally and people holding placards such as ‘Consider the Victims’.

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