ACMA finds anti-gay marriage ‘iceberg’ ad is not a breach of the television codes of practice

The broadcasting media watchdog has found a television ad screened last month opposing gay marriage does not breach the television codes of practice.

In a ruling published on its website this afternoon, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) found that the Marriage Alliance ‘iceberg’ ad, which aired on pay-TV service Foxtel and drew an angry response from some viewers, was a non-breach, given the topic was one of current political debate.

Marriage Alliance had sought to broadcast the ad, which argues “it’s not as simple as you think”, last month as the Coalition partyroom debated whether to put the issue to a conscience vote in the parliament. Ultimately the Coalition voted that members should be held to opposing gay marriage until after the next election when a plebiscite will be held. 

The ACMA investigation report notes that there were two complaints, with both complainants alleging “the advertisements were offensive, while one of the complainants raised additional concerns about the adequacy of the complaints handling process (by the broadcaster).”

In its ruling the media watchdog noted that gay marriage was “a contentious contemporary political issue, with many in the community holding strong views on the subject”.

The ACMA’s ruling found “that these views are held will not necessarily mean that content that is part of the wider debate, or that conveys different and/or opposing perspectives on the subject, will be offensive to a level that it will be unsuitable for broadcast.”

It also found a 30 second commercial added additional context and urged people to visit the Marriage Alliance website.

MarriageAlliance-2 from Storyline Quickdraw on Vimeo.

“The longer advertisement also conveyed that these different and/or opposing views speculate whether same-sex marriage could affect children, sex education and a loss of rights,” said the ruling.

“Both advertisements further conveyed that viewers were urged to find out more by visiting the Marriage Alliance website.”

The ACMA also noted that Foxtel had run advertisements from rival lobby group Australians for Marriage Equality.

“Foxtel submitted it also broadcast advertisements from the pro same-sex marriage group, Australian Marriage Equality,” it said.

“The ACMA accepts that the advertisements were broadcast in good faith for the purpose of providing its audience with different and/or opposing perspectives to enable debate about a contemporary political matter.”

Comment is being sought from Marriage Alliance while Australians for Marriage Equality national director Rodney Croome said: “Groups like Marriage Alliance complain a lot about being censored and silenced.”
“But the ACMA ruling undermines this persecution narrative by upholding the Marriage Alliance’s right to broadcast its concerns.”

“I have no doubt the more Australians hear what the Marriage Alliance has to say the more will support marriage equality.”

Nic Christensen 


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