Radio host suspended over Dreamworld joke

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A Tasmanian radio host has been suspended after making a joke about the recent Dreamworld tragedy but, according to one industry lawyer, her behaviour won’t necessarily warrant dismissal.

Anna Dare – who co-hosts the 7HOFM breakfast show – referenced the recent incident during the ‘Secret Sound’ segment in which callers are asked to guess the source of a sound being played.

"I really don't like it, it’s violent sounding," Dare said after hearing the audio clip yesterday morning. "It's not getting stuck in a conveyor belt at a theme park is it? Too soon?"

Co-host Mick Newell sighed in response and Dare attempted to offer an explanation – "That's what it sounds like to me when I first heard it," she protested, "that's the first thing I thought of."

Dare’s comments came less than two days after a raft overturned on Dreamworld's Thunder River Rapids ride, killing four of its occupants and injuring another two. The Gold Coast theme park remains closed to the public as police continue investigations.

Dare was taken off air shortly after the error and has now been suspended by 7HOFM and its parent company, Grant Broadcasters.

“The announcer's remark demonstrated a serious lapse in judgement and we sincerely apologise to our listeners, the broader community and everyone affected by this week's terrible tragedy," said Grant Broadcasters CEO, Grant Cameron.

Cameron also confirmed that Dare would undergo counselling and training but said a decision on her return will be made at a later date.

"We have dealt with this unfortunate incident as swiftly as possible and will use it to further improve our standards and the training of our on-air staff,” he added.

Andy Bell, principal at Wellington-based law firm Bell & Co, says New Zealand employers are entitled to protect their reputation and would be legally allowed to dismiss an employee if customer relations had been significantly damaged.

However, Bell says the very nature of Dare’s job may offer her some protection.

“Expectations on announcers from their employer can often be that they are provocative. Their role may be as a ‘shock jock’. Black humour is often a feature of radio performance,” he tells HRM.

“It is less reasonable to chastise such an announcer when they cross a line, where expectations of provocative comment or black humour may be a feature of their role. The nature of the show and audience would be relevant considerations.

"My view would be a caution or warning would be more appropriate [than dismissal]," says Bell.

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