Howard Sattler, controversial broadcaster, dead at 76

Howard Sattler

Controversial broadcaster Howard Sattler has died aged 76.

His death comes after a decade long illness. Sattler suffered from a rare neurological disorder progressive supranuclear palsy.  He also battled throat cancer, with radiotherapy damaging his voice. In his his final years he was advocate for voluntary euthanasia.

For more than 30 years Sattler hosted high rating programs on talk-back station 6PR including Breakfast, Mornings and Drive. He is credited with introducing the ‘shock jock’ style of presenting and backtalk onto Perth’s airwaves.

Radio personalities have paid tribute to Sattler describing his as a “king of backtalk radio”, highlighting his work with charities and sick children. Some have also acknowledged that his career was filled with controversy including many accusations of racism and instances of attacking minority groups.

His career in journalism began at the Sydney Morning Herald. He was called up for National Service in 1968 during the height of the Vietnam War and he completed officer training, before relocating to Perth to take up a public relations role with the Defense Department. He later worked at Channel 7, and several local newspapers.

Throughout his career he often courted controversy, and provoked extreme reactions from listeners.

Sattler threatens to name people living with HIV

In June 1989 there were reports in the media that the health department had identified around twenty homosexual men who were HIV positive and engaging in unprotected sexual behaviour with multiple partners.

While initial reports published in The Daily News suggested a number of twenty, subsequent reports in other media outlets, and official statements from the health department clarified the actual concern was around roughly six individuals who were HIV positive but had subsequently presented to health authorities with other sexually transmitted infections, suggesting that they may not have been practicing safe sex.

At the time there were few successful medical treatments for people living with HIV and adhering to safe sex practices was the focus of stopping the spread of the virus.

According to reports published in The Westside Observer Howard Sattler threatened to name a list of men he believed to be responsible for passing on the disease. A court injunction prevented Sattler for following through with his threat.

Shortly after the incident the Health Minister Keith Wilson proposed legislation to specifically focusing on the transmission of HIV, the laws however were never introduced, and subsequent prosecutions in Western Australia have been under the general criminal code.

Attacks on indigenous youth

In 1990 Sattler was under fire for comments he made on air about the deaths of three aboriginal children. The trio had died in a stolen car after being pursued by police.

“Well, I say good riddance to bad rubbish. That’s three less car thieves. I think, they’re dead, and I think that’s good.” Sattler said on-air. His comments sparked protests and public outrage.

The following year Sattler was heavily involved orchestrating the Rally for Justice, a protest that saw over 30,000 people surround the Western Australian parliament. On air Sattler called for harsher penalties for youth offenders, citing that a crime wave was he claimed was being driven largely by offenders from aboriginal backgrounds.

Despite his claims, official statistics showed there was no increase in the level of crime. WA’s Parliament passed the Crime (serious and Repeat Offenders) Sentencing Act six months later which mandated detention for certain crimes.

In 2001 broadcaster 6PR was fined under Western Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act over comments made on air by hosts and talkback callers.

Cash for comment

In 1999 Sattler was embroiled in the ‘cash for comment’ saga that highlighted that talk-back radio hosts were being paid to speak positively about particular businesses. While Sattler was far from the worst offender, the Australian Broadcasting Authority found 6PR had breached the industry’s standards on 17 occasions.

Fired for asking if Julia Gillard’s partner was gay

Sattler’s time at 6PR came to and end in 2013, when the station dismissed the broadcaster after he asked Prime Minister Julia Gillard if her partner Tim Mathieson was gay. He later sued the broadcaster for unfair dismissal, the case was settled out of court in 2015.

After leaving radio Sattler continued broadcasting online, creating his own platform The Sattler Files. He is survived by his wife Despene, who has been his care-giver for the last years of his life.

OIP Staff


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