Thier ABC

It’s Official. I’m the One with the Problem

I’d better apologise to the ABC. I’ve been carrying on about ABCTV recommending and broadcasting pornography to 15-year-old schoolchildren, when all along the ABC was operating perfectly within its rights and codes, according to the Commonwealth Ombudsman. The Ombudsman now endorses the same view I got from the Australian Communications and Media Authority. ABCTV doesn’t even need to self-rate its pornography at the most severe MA15+ level. An ordinary M rating is quite OK for ABCTV material about triple-penetrating a woman, defecating during coitus in a hotel corridor, raping a woman from behind with a two-metre penis. All that and more was presented as entertainment in just one episode of At Home Alone Together. 

Then there were Episode 9’s  “jokes” about a crowded household moving into a woman’s vagina, where there would be more room.[1] But the Ombudsman says it’s fine and dandy that it gets the same self-rated “M” — “Adult Themes, Violence” — as BBC Midsomer Murders

The ABCTV’s pornography was in its nine-part weekly “comedy” series At Home Alone Together that started last May 13 on Wednesdays at 9pm.

It’s not as though the material in the nine-part weekly “comedy” series, which first aired last May, was an aberration that slipped past feminist chair Ita Buttrose, her feminist board and the national broadcasters oh-so-woke senior management.[2] Incredibly, the series was praised in the ABC’s 2020 annual report as “morale-boosting” and creator Nick Hayden was promoted a month or two later to become head of the ABC’s entire entertainment empire.[3] [4]  Parents, never threaten to wash your little ones’ dirty-talking mouths with soap. It might adversely affect their future careers.

I have now completed a trifecta of failed complaints about ABCTV pornography causing gratuitous harm and offence to viewers, including 15-year-old schoolchildren. I complained that the material should not have been broadcast by ABCTV at all, but at least should have been self-rated by ABC at the severest MA15+ rating, not M. Here is a chronology of my efforts.

# The ABC’s supposedly independent complaints panel on November 5 threw out my complaint without considering it. It relied on an ABC technicality that complaints later than six weeks after broadcast date are “out of time” and invalid. In fact I’d accessed the material from iView, where it remains accessible to schoolchildren under and over 15 to this day. The six-week technicality relates to some pre-digital practice of ABCTV dumping tapes of inconsequential material after six weeks to reduce clutter in their physical archives.

# I then appealed the ABC’s dismissal with the Australian Communications and Media Authority. ACMA on January 22 informed me that it had “carefully assessed” my complaint, reviewed the material on iView and checked it against relevant ABC codes of practice and classification guidelines. In an implicit rebuke to the ABC , it ignored the “six week out of time” technicality but still ruled that, in context, the “M” ratings were fine by them. “Consequently, it [the material] is unlikely to constitute a breach of the ABC’s Code and as a result, we will not be taking further action.” ACMA invited me, if unsatisfied, to appeal to the Commonwealth Ombudsman. To save time and space, you can look up all these details from my previous articles here, here and here. Caution: graphic sexual themes.

# I appealed to the Ombudsman on January 27, saying,

I would like ACMA to revisit my appeal against ABC Complaints Panel and issue a public statement that the ABC wrongly classified its pornographic materials as M. I would like you to direct ABCTV to broadcast no further pornography to schoolchildren, regardless of whether ABCTV views its pornography as “comedy”.

 With blinding and commendable speed, I had a 1000-word response from an Ombudsman staffer within 24 hours. Perhaps the office had nothing else on its plate that day and the whole organisation focused on it. So why have I not reported the reply of a week ago? It’s because, at the foot of the email, there was a dire warning that unauthorised publication of the contents could incur “legal sanctions”, so I wrote back and asked for permission to publish. Again with commendable speed, I received a friendly email from staffer Mark saying, “I apologise for the delay in responding to your query. While I can’t offer you a legal opinion on the question you have raised, I don’t believe there would be an issue with circulating our response given that the response only includes references to material you have provided to our Office and material that is already in the public domain.”[5] [6]

I can say sincerely that the Ombudsman’s office is a credit to the federal public service, both in courtesy and procedural efficiency. As for appealing against the ruling, I’ve got nowhere to go but the Federal or High courts. Where’s the Privy Council when you need it?

Here’s the Ombudsman in full, my emphasis added:

OFFICIAL

I have considered your complaint, but have decided not to investigate. My view is that ACMA’s [Australian Communications and Media Authority’s] decision was not unreasonable and I cannot see a good basis to conclude that investigating the complaint would result in ACMA changing the decision.

I understand you strongly disagree with ACMA’s decision that a number of broadcasts of the sketch show “At Home Alone Together” did not appear likely to have breached relevant sections of the ABC Code of Practice 2019 (the Code). In your complaint you suggested that ACMA’s decision was “capricious, arbitrary and wrong”. [Correction: I said the ABC Complaints Panel, not ACMA, had been capricious, arbitrary and wrong]. I cannot see a basis for concluding the decision was either capricious or arbitrary. It seems clear that ACMA considered the issues you raised, viewed the program, and assessed it against the Code. As to whether the decision was wrong, my assessment is that there was a not unreasonable basis for ACMA’s decision.

In my experience in assessing complaints about ACMA, whether the complaint involves the ABC or a commercial broadcaster, it is often the case that viewers or listeners find that the relevant code doesn’t provide the kind of protections or restrictions that they may expect. Standard 7 of the ABC Code provides an illustrative example of this in that it does not actively prevent the broadcast of content that is likely to harm or offend. Instead, the Standard merely requires that such content has a clear purpose, is prefaced by clear warnings when applicable, and takes into account community standards – noting that the Australian community is diverse, which means that what is acceptable content will depends [sic] on the particular context, including the nature of the content and its target audience.

You will note that Standard 7.1 requires that one take into account the editorial context in which the content is broadcast, while Standard 7.2 allows for content likely to cause harm or offence to be broadcast if it is accompanied by proper warning labels, advice, and/or classification labels. On viewing the program, it is clear that it is a comedic program that aims to amuse by satirising a standard lifestyle program. While I accept that many viewers may not have found the material amusing, it is clear that satire is the context in which to consider the program. This necessarily means one would expect to find content employing exaggeration, ridicule, absurdity, and inappropriate or unusual behaviour. [Really? Such as raping a dog?– TT] Importantly, understanding this was not left entirely up to the viewer as the broadcasts were also prefaced by advice such as adult themes’, ‘sexual references’ and ‘coarse language [Such as a lady saying, “suck your dick or lick my …” — TT].

I acknowledge your view that the content wasn’t appropriate for an M classification, but I don’t see a good basis to conclude that ACMA’s assessment was wrong. Under the ABC’s Associated Standard on Television Program Classification, a program classified as M is recommended for people aged 15 years and over. While there is an expectation that “less explicit or less intense material will be included in the M classification”, explicit material may be broadcast under the M classification, including content that “is considered to be potentially harmful or disturbing to those under 15 years”. This means that depending on the particular content, a satirical program such as At Home Alone Together does not require an MA classification.

The primary content ACMA focused on in assessing whether the broadcasts breached Standard 7.3 was the so-called ‘bonk ban’ sketch. This was because of an assessment that this material was likely to be more impactful than other material you cited. In essence ACMA found that the offending animations in that sketch were so lacking in detail and were shown for such a short period that, when seen in the context of a satirical program that was prefaced with warnings about sexual references, the sketch did not clearly exceed the M classification. In my view ACMA’s assessment of this material was not unreasonable. [It would be good for Staffer Mark to adopt fewer double negatives. — TT]

As I do not see a basis on which we could be critical of ACMA’s assessment in this case nor have reason to believe that an investigation would result in a different substantive outcome, I have decided that an investigation of your complaint is not warranted.

I appreciate that you may be disappointed in this decision [I am-TT]. Should you wish to discuss this decision, please contact me by reply email.

Thank you for bringing your concerns to the attention of the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s office.

Yours sincerely,

Mark
Complaint Resolution Officer

COMMONWEALTH OMBUDSMAN
Influencing systemic improvement in public administration

The Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman acknowledges the traditional owners of country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, culture and community. We pay our respects to elders past and present.

___________________________________

To sum up, the ABC Code (Standards 7.1-7.3) offers the public no protection against ABCTV’s broadcasting of pornography, except that such material should be in an “editorial context”, properly self-rated by ABCTV as M or MA15+, meet standards of some element of the community (bikie gangs, perhaps?), and include a warning about sexual themes, strong language, violence etc.[7] Strictures about such programs screening after 8.30pm are worthless given the they remain accessible by children of any age at any time on iView.

The only bulwarks against pornography being broadcast on ABCTV are the hoped-for decency, good taste and professionalism of ABC management. In the case of At Home Alone Together, ABC management was au contraire delighted by the material — “morale-boosting”, as the annual report put it.)

I’ll conclude with some random points partly covered in my previous articles.

# The schematised human graphic and animated figures depicted in numerous forms of copulation during the Home Alone series can also be viewed on the world-prominent porn site redtube.com. I previously speculated that the ABCTV producers had acquired them there, but logically this is impossible as animated graphics like the intercourse using a 2 metre penis must have been tailor-made for the series’ context, perhaps assisted by the two people named in the credits closing the episode as “motion graphics” specialists.

# Senior producers of the Home Alone series include several of the team that made the low-rated and dumped Tonightly show. In one Tonightly episode in March 2018, comedian/presenter Greg Larsen called Australian Conservative candidate Kevin Bailey a c**t. In the four-minute Tonightly rant, which was pre-approved by ABC executives for broadcast, there were eight “c**s” and two “f**s”. Home Alone’s Episode 4 animated graphic of a man raping a dog calls to mind the 2013 ABC incident with  Chaser Boys  mocking The Australian’s ABC critic, journalist Chris Kenny, by pasting his facial features on a man with his pants down raping a Labradoodle. A label said: “Chris ‘Dog F***er’ Kenny”. Kenny sued the ABC which dug in for nearly a year but finally reversed course and gave him cash and apologies.

# One of Home Alone’s actresses was banned from Twitter in 2018 for  posts: “Oi Scott Morrison, I’m gonna chop your f***king head off…Every politician is a disgusting c—t. I honestly think we need to chop their heads off.”

# It is a fair point that the nine-part Home Alone series contains a lot of acceptable and harmless (but lame) humor. The pornography and filth are extras, like brandy on a plum pudding. A few items on At Home Alone are genuinely funny, although possibly inadvertent, like the person “coming out” as heterosexual in Episode 9. It’s great for the ABC to be so inclusive. [I self-rate this joke as “satire” or “comedy”, classification MA15+, strong language warning and any harm or offence is justified by editorial context and modern community standards].

Tony Thomas’s new book, Come To Think Of It – essays to tickle the brain, is available here as a book ($34.95) or an e-book ($14.95)

 

[1] End-credits for Episode 4 include “Editorial Policy Adviser: Simon Melkman”.

[2] We discover board members’ feminist credentials on opening pages of the latest annual report. Ita Buttrose is a founding member and former president of Chief Executive Women. Trump-hating deputy chair Kirstin Ferguson has been a board member of SheStarts, and Chair of the Women’s Agenda Leadership Awards. She’s a member of Chief Executive Women, Women Corporate Directors and the Women’s Leadership Institute of Australia. Donny Walford is a Founding Member of International Women’s Forum Australia, and a former director of Australian Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Georgie Somerset’s past roles include positions with the National Foundation for Australian Women.

[3] ABC top executives’ love affair with At Home Alone Together bore fruit last October in the promotion of its “ever-genial” creator Nick Hayden to Head of Entertainment, replacing Josie Mason-Campbell, who had exited in the course of a budget-led restructure last June. She cited Home Alone as part of her entertainment track record, saying“I have been privileged to work with the ABC and to lead a ridiculously talented and creatively brave factual and entertainment team.”

[4] “Other morale-boosting new programs included At Home Alone Together, a comedic take on the lifestyle magazine genre that went from concept to screen in just six weeks.”

[5] This email’s footer also threatened legal sanctions if published.

[6] The actual Ombudsman is Michael Manthorpe PSM. The “PSM” stands for “Public Service Medal”. He started as a journalism student in Queensland. The country’s always left-wing and usually incompetent journalism lecturers can warp a person’s character for a lifetime, but Mr Manthorpe has come through as a man of integrity and professionalism.

[7] ABC Classifications are performed in-house by two full-time and two part-time raters.

14 comments
  • PT

    Even my ABC loving mother (and one time employee) hated “At Home Alone Together” and Ray Martin’s unfunny appearances! Too many alleged “comedians” think that because Monty Python used “shock” that simply being disgusting equals being funny! But it doesn’t substitute for actual talent.

  • Peter OBrien

    The ABC sets a low standard and, in this case at least, apparently just managed to scrape in above it .

  • J Vernau

    What has happened, perhaps while we weren’t paying enough attention, is that sex has become decoupled, so to speak, from reproduction, except in certain rare and premeditated circumstances. Without the possibility of children being produced, sex is trivial. Child’s play. Exercise without needing a gym membership.
    You’ve probably heard this before, but it seems apposite:
    A father sits his 15 year-old son down and says, “Son, I think it’s time we had a little chat about sex.”
    “Well OK, Dad,” says the boy, squirming a little. “What do you want to know?”

  • Ceres

    Thank you so much Tony for going to all that trouble to point out what is obviously vile material, on the ABC. You are not the one with the problem. It seems the lowest common denominator, if prefaced by a warning, is all the go. The staffer Mark can rabbit on with lots of trendy rationalisation, but it still stinks and always will, to those of us with a few core values.

  • leabrae

    Frankly—yawn. Nothing new. As I have believed for years now, terminate the funding.

    Then again, like child sacrifice in South Australia (and elsewhere), I take it that the public approves this form of expenditure of tax receipts.

    As with everything else, we have no future as a civilisation, just totalitarian autarky There really is no hope.

  • deric davidson

    Tony you know very well that the F word sells – the word is Filth!

  • PT

    Well I’m not surprised that the complaint went no where. A couple of years back the ABC had that show Stargazing with Brian Cox and Julia Zemiro. The filmed it at Siding Spring, with the Anglo-Australian Telescope in the background. Well the Observatory had a museum and one of the exhibits was some wreckage of Skylab which they’d acquired after its reentry in 1979. Zamiro then declared to camera that it was “supposed to land in the PACIFIC Ocean” but landed instead in Australia! Perhaps she (or more likely the half educated “researcher” misread the card on the exhibit. But Skylab didn’t land anywhere near NSW, instead the wreckage came down in south eastern WA just to the east of Esperance! Hence the ocean it was supposed to have landed in (and where most of it probably did end up in fact) was the Indian/Southern Ocean, not the Pacific! Typical eastern states forgetting the state even exists and then wondering why there’s anti eastern states sentiment out here!
    .
    Well I put in a complaint. WA being snubbed is a cross we have to bear (90% of the population lives over east, so it’s to be expected that don’t get much attention). But they had given factually incorrect information on what was purported to be a science show! They got back to me. I not only had to give the date of the episode (I’d already given this), but I had to tell them the precise time of the gaff before they’d examine it! The episode had already been aired, and I really didn’t want to trawl through ABC iView (it was down anyway)! Clearly they didn’t refer the complaint through to the makers of the programme, who would have been aware of it!
    .
    And this wasn’t political, ruffled feathers in WA apart. It wasn’t about someone’s pet project, or pet ideology, merely sloppy research resulting in untrue information being given to the public on a show supposedly to educate people. Yet they would not consider it unless the complainant essentially did everything for them. My view was that if they demanded such a high threshold to even consider a complaint they were hardly likely to do anything even if I gave them the time stamp! And this is for something that should have been factual (although the presence of the overrated Tim Minchin must count against this) by definition! The point is that ideology wasn’t a factor in this, and yet it was clear they didn’t want to do anything! The demand for the precise time was clearly meant to fob me off. So for the “progressive” lefts idea of humour, or convenient historical claims (ie Pascoe’s fantasies), much less the bias that’s obvious to everyone who’s not a leftie “progressive” what standard to even begin investigating would be required? Much less needing to be upheld? Doubtless they ask questions to delay until either the complainant tires of the process or the timeframe exceeds the threshold! Doubtless that washes away most complaints, and they can then claim there are few complaints as few persevere beyond that. But if it were something ideological or otherwise vital to the ABC hive mind (like the sorry excuse for comedy they now serve) I can only imagine the hurdles that would be set in the way.

  • Bernard

    It does not seem necessary to me to have, at the top of this excellent article, the slanderous and disgraceful image of Chris Kenny, concocted by the ABC. The correct thing to do for the victim is to not reproduce this outrageous piece of slander, even if it is to condemn it.

  • Elizabeth Beare

    Mark has failed at his vocation I am afraid.
    As a ‘Complaints Resolution Officer’ he has resolved nothing.
    Thank you though Tony for gathering the material that point this out.

  • Elizabeth Beare

    Personally, I blame Ita.
    She’s old enough to know better. So she could definitely do bettter than fail to control these sniggering juveniles and let poor Mark twist his brain into knots trying to take the rap. No wonder no-one sensible or amusing watches the ABC these days given this standard of fare.

  • en passant

    Fortunately, our fearless conservative politicians in the current Federal Government will be all over this any moment now an will defund these puerile pissants at the ABC.
    Now that is humorous …

  • Harry Lee

    Note Well: There is no remedy in law for the abomination that is the ABC. This is the main point about the ABC. Of course, there is no remedy in law for the many, many destructive factors in our land. There are very few Australians, in any walk or station of life, who are capable or willing to realise that neither the system of law to which we are subject, nor the Constitution on which the legal system is based, provides for the ordinary people to defend themselves and their children from neo-marxism, Big Statism, anti-Westernism, anti-Christianity, anti-heterosexuality, or smut.

  • Davidovich

    I wondered why you hadn’t complained to the Communications Minister but then realised you actually wanted something done.

  • Harry Lee

    Problem is this:
    Acting as if the ABC could be fixed by pointing out its wrongfulness -no, nothing doing.
    The ABC has become a driving force for woke and neo-marxist anti-Westernism.
    It presents “news” and “analysis” in ways that are detrimental to Australia as a thriving member of the Western Alliance.
    The ABC does this in all sorts of ways.
    One prime method it uses is to present utter anti-factual material that is negative for Lib and Nat politicians and buries anything negative about ALP and Green politicians.
    The ABC acts as if our British -actually English- foundations are all wrong and bad.
    And as seen in its audience participation programs:
    The ABC promotes the grievances of parasites as if these are paramount and must be remedied, and it favorably highlights support for various anti-Westernist forces.
    Must move beyond making jokes about the ABC.
    The ABC is an enemy of our once quite good version of Western Civ.
    All of this is also true for SBS and, obviously, the universities and the state education systems.
    All paid for by nett-producing/nett tax-paying strivers.

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