Watchdog clears AbbottLovesAnal Q&A slip and sweary Four Corners show of standards breach

Producers of ABC shows Q&A and Four Corners have escaped censure after complaints about the Twitter handle @AbbottLovesAnal and phrase “cunt-struck” being broadcast in their respective shows.

Abbott Anal

The tweet at the centre of the controversy.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) cleared the Q&A broadcast of August 24 where the controversial handle, referring to then Prime Minister Tony Abbott, made it to air.

One of the complaints about the incident read: “I wish only to have it on record my absolute disgust at the ‘Abbottlovesanal’ tweet displayed on Q&A Monday evening. Childish behaviour that has no place in Australian broadcasting let alone a taxpayer funded one.”

In its ruling the ACMA wrote it did not believe the broadcaster had breached the rules, despite the Twitter handle containing “a coarse sexual reference, which was made in connection to Mr Tony Abbott, the then Prime Minister.”

It went on to say: “In general, stating that a person ‘loves anal’ refers to that person’s preference for a particular type of sexual activity. In this case, it would have been understood by the ordinary reasonable viewer as having been used in a provocative and derogatory manner.”

The watchdog said it believed that after the tweet slipped through inbuilt filters it was satisfied that the ABC took appropriate steps “to mitigate any offence that may have been caused by the inadvertent and unintentional broadcast of the Twitter handle.”

Lawler Jackson

Lawler and Jackson in the Four Corners episode.

The watchdog also investigated the controversial Four Corners episode featuring Fair Work commissioner Michael Lawler and his partner Kathy Jackson after a complaint over the use of “coarse language” in the broadcast, with the complainant arguing it “was not appropriate for prime time viewing and that despite the warning at the beginning ‘no one was expecting the words used by Michael Lawler’.”

Among the words which were complained about the ACMA report notes that “the program contained several instances of coarse language, specifically the words ‘bullshit’, ‘bloody’, ‘fuck’ and ‘cunt-struck’, which were used by Mr Lawler.”

However it assessed the editorial context and found that Lawler, who together with Jackson is facing questions over the appropriateness of their use of union funds for travel, holidays and other personal expenses, was “very candid” in the broadcast in relation to his relationship with Jackson and also in relation to allegations of wrongdoing.

“The ACMA considers that the strong coarse language was not used for the purpose of causing offence and accepts the ABC’s submission that it was presented in context and was not used gratuitously,” the report found.

“Further, the program has a history of dealing with confronting material and provided a warning at the beginning of the segment. The ACMA also considers that it would have been within the expectations of its target audience.”

The ABC declined to comment on both rulings.

Nic Christensen 


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