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ACMA clears ABC’s Tonightly but warns the ‘c word’ tests the limits

The Australian Communications and Media Authority has cleared ABC comedy show Tonightly for breaching the national broadcaster’s code of conduct over a skit that featured strong language.

Following the show’s airing in March, communications minister Mitch Fifield condemned the broadcaster and The ABC’s head of entertainment, David Anderson, apologised to Australian Conservative’s political candidate Kevin Bailey for the skit.

During the sketch, comedian Greg Larsen impersonated a public servant proposing the Melbourne electorate named after the city’s founder, John Batman, be renamed to “Batman was a cunt” due to his treatment of the indigenous population.

In its ruling, ACMA found the segment did not breach the harm and offence provisions of the ABC Code of Practice as the segment, while offensive, was editorially justified and fell within the MA15+ classification.

ACMA did however warn “there were limits to the sort of content that could be justified by a comedic context and that those limits were certainly tested by the program.”

The show had been preceded by a warning it contained “coarse language, sexual references and adult themes” with the segment showing posters of The Australian Greens and Australian Labor Party  candidates for the upcoming Batman by-election being altered to replace the name of the electorate, ‘Batman’, with ‘Batman-was-a-cunt’.

However, the election poster for the Australian Conservatives candidate, Mr Bailey, did not mention the electorate so Larsen said he had therefore ‘improvised’ and altered the poster to read ‘Kevin Bailey is a cunt’. A poster was shown with the additional text.

Larsen then announced that he was ‘breaking’ from his character as a public servant to explain that he altered Mr Bailey’s poster in this way because Mr Bailey had refused a request for an interview.

Tonightly host Tom Ballard then told Bailey to “get the fuck out of here.”

Mumbrella has contacted the ABC for comment.

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