Warnings before the broadcast of material of this nature must be spoken, and may also be written. They must provide an adequate indication of the nature of the material, while avoiding detail which may itself seriously distress or seriously offend viewers. -Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice.
Viewers were puzzled at how Sunday Night was able to broadcast the F-Bomb, not once but twice, last night in Mike Willesee’s interview with James Packer.
The multi-billionaire did indeed get emotional when answering questions about his father, fighting back tears as he recalled Kerry Packer’s sometimes “terrifying” style.
Broadcasting the F-Bomb at 7pm is not common-place but the Code of Practice does give News and Current Affairs some flexibility that isn’t afforded to other content in the same timeslot.
Firstly, there is no classification for News and Current Affairs.
Chris Bath abided by the ruling that an audible warning must be given before the broadcast. It could be debatable that the offending words were separated in the second segment, following a commercial break, rather than directly before.
There are other elements of the Code that are also relevant:
4.1.2 News and current affairs programs are presented with care, having regard to the likely composition of the viewing audience and, in particular, the presence of children;
2.14 Material which may distress or offend viewers: Only if there is an identifiable public interest reason may a licensee broadcast a news or current affairs program containing material which, in the licensee’s reasonable opinion, is likely to distress or offend a substantial number of viewers.
2.4.1 Exception for news, current affairs and broadcasts of sporting events: these programs do not require classification, provided that the licensee exercises care in selecting material for broadcast having regard to:
220.127.116.11 the likely audience of the program; and
18.104.22.168 any identifiable public interest reason for presenting the program material
Seven would undoubtedly argue that the use of the F-Bomb was an expression of the depth of Packer’s emotion, although it would be hard not to argue that bleeping the word could have still implied the same depth.
While Sunday Night did warn its audience of “bad language” was the audience adequately informed? Does “a little” mean the impact of the word, or the frequency? Given the show has included plenty of family-friendly stories in the past? In any case the media watchdog requires any complaints to be directed first to the broadcaster for resolution before it can be lodged with ACMA.
Interpretation of the Code and its intent will rest upon the circumstances should a complaint arrive to ACMA.
But it does nod to a bigger question of whether Language is likely to become looser in News and Current Affairs shows in 2013.
Today Tonight returns tonight on Seven with Helen Kapalos and Sharyn Ghidella in separate Eastern State editions. No warnings have been issued thus far…