The ABC's official response to the Chris Kenny Hamster Wheel complaints
Saturday, 05 October 2013
The ABC says that this was in keeping with the ABC's editorial standards for harm and offence.Our reader P says
Dear Mr XXXXX,
Thank you for your email concerning a segment on The Hamster Decides.
As your correspondence raised concerns of offensive content, your email was referred to Audience and Consumer Affairs for consideration and response. The unit is separate and independent from ABC program areas and is responsible for investigating complaints alleging a broadcast or publication was in contravention of the ABC's editorial standards. In light of your concerns, we have reviewed the broadcast and assessed it against the ABC’s editorial requirements for harm and offence, as outlined in section 7.1 of the ABC’s Code of Practice: http://about.abc.net.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/CodeofPractice2013.pdf. We have also sought and considered material from ABC Television.
The ABC’s editorial standards for harm and offence state in part:
7.1 Content that is likely to cause harm or offence must be justified by the editorial context.
The Principles outlined in the Code in relation to harm and offence state:
Innovation involves a willingness to take risks, invent and experiment with new ideas. This can result in challenging content which may offend some of the audience some of the time.
The ABC must also be able to provide content for specific target audiences whose standards may differ from generally held community attitudes.
In keeping with the standards outlined in the Code, Audience and Consumer Affairs has assessed whether the content was likely to cause harm or offence and whether there was a clear editorial purpose for the segment.
The Hamster Decides is the latest of several series of programs produced by The Chaser team. It is a satirical program aimed at provoking debate and providing social commentary on topical issues in politics, news and current affairs and public life generally, focusing on the events of the 2013 Federal Election.
The program advises that it was aware of the potential for the segment to be offensive to some viewers but believed that “it had a clear editorial purpose and was ultimately considered to be justified in the context”.
The program notes that the sketch, called Inside the Wheel, began with “a comic analysis of the different and sometimes absurd graphics and techniques used by the networks to make their election night coverage exciting.” It then showed the clumsy use of social media by some of the shows and finally discussed their use of “opinionated hacks”. An on-air error involving Chris Kenny on Sky News was shown. The program then showed Mr Kenny, who is a long-standing critic of the ABC, saying that the new government should reconsider the ABC’s funding. The intended joke in the words of the program, “was that the Hamster team then agreed with this opinion; using a ludicrously over the top image to intentionally [make] a juvenile and crass joke which would highlight this very need for a standards review. While the image of Mr Kenny was crude, the graphic was clearly fake and absurd. The absurdity was further highlighted by feeding the image of Mr Kenny to a shark.”
Audience and Consumer Affairs has concluded that the segment featuring Mr Kenny was likely to offend; however, we note that the editorial purpose was comic and intended to satirise Mr Kenny’s criticism of the ABC, in particular his view given in the immediate aftermath of the election result that the Corporation’s funding should be reviewed. As Mr Kenny was a prominent part of the Sky News election broadcast team and a review of election broadcasts comprised a significant part of the program, the segment was in an editorially relevant context. More broadly, and while accepting the image was very strong in nature, the Inside the Wheel segment was consistent with The Chaser’s particular style of at times vulgar and undergraduate humour with which its target audience would be familiar; the fact that the ABC only received one complaint immediately after the program would seem to support this.
While Audience and Consumer Affairs are satisfied the broadcast was in keeping with the ABC’s editorial standards for harm and offence, please accept our apologies for the offence caused. Please be assured that your comments have been noted and conveyed to ABC Television management and the producers of the program.
Should you be dissatisfied with this response to your complaint, you may be able to pursue your complaint with the Australian Communications and Media Authority, http://www.acma.gov.au .