A festive muck-up on ABC Radio has highlighted the number one rule of broadcasting: you can scream, vent, and swear, but God help anyone who questions the existence of Santa Claus, even if you’re a Triple J host.

Appearing on Afternoons with James Valentine yesterday, Triple J Hack presenter Avani Dias was questioned about her experiences of Christmas as a kid. It was a simple enough premise, but their exchange would soon disappear from the airwaves.

“My family is Sri Lankan, so they’re all Buddhist, so Christmas isn’t a major holiday in our family,” Dias said. So far, so good.

“But obviously growing up in Australia, you believe in Santa and that kind of thing,” she continued. “I was always trying to prove–”

The audio skipped a beat, then flashed forward to Valentine’s voice.

“I just did it,” he said. “Okay, moving straight on…”

What he ‘did’ was hit the ‘dump’ button, the radio panic switch which effectively skips over ten seconds of delayed audio and reverts to the live broadcast.

Why? Well, the Triple J host broke an unwritten law of radio broadcasting, which is that you should never, ever, say Santa Claus isn’t real.

The reason it’s such a big deal is touching – and totally obvious.

Valentine told PEDESTRIAN.TV too many listeners “cherish the notion of their kids liking Santa,” and threatening that belief on the air is guaranteed to cause an influx of angry callers.

Valentine learned that lesson earlier in his decades-long career, when a producer savaged his decision to deny Santa’s existence during a broadcast.

“He said, ‘This just gets more complaints than anything else,’” Valentine admitted.

“There’s somebody driving their kid around… and it’s December the 14th. The kid’s head is full of Santa, and you’ve suddenly said out loud ‘Santa’s not real.’

“So it’s death.”

Dias clocked the issue immediately after the broadcast, recognising how an admittedly minor fact of life can become something else on the airwaves.

“Avani kind of stood up and said, ‘I know that, I know that! I can’t believe I did that!’” Valentine added. “It’s a big rule: You can’t say anything about Santa. She was shocked at herself.”

There are other good reasons for hitting the ‘dump’ button too, with defamatory claims, racial slurs, and profanity-laden insults all considered dump-worthy material.

But “the second-most important reason is not saying anything about Santa, the Tooth Fairy, or the Easter Bunny,” Valentine said.

He went as far to say that shock jock Kyle Sandilands, whose career is built on saying edgy and offensive gear, is yet to broach the real hot topics.

“If Kyle Sandilands really wants to offend everybody, have a discussion like, ‘Why don’t we tell kids that Santa’s a lie? You know we’re lying to kids right from the word go.’”

While the gentle guardianship of childhood stories is not enshrined in Australian media law, it’s apparent that local broadcasters are serious about protecting young listeners from some cruel realities.

“To shit on that, just for the sake of conversation on air, is an act of bastardry which should not be encouraged,” Valentine said.

“The most Grinchy thing you could do.”

You can listen to the incident here, from the 23:20 mark. Best not to play it around the kids, though.

Image: Dragon Images / Getty Images / ABC