Although we’ve managed to see an obscene billboard pulled down, the events in the last 24 hours still show that there is a long way to go in improving our public spaces.
When the ACL was contacted yesterday by SMH journalist Megan Levy to comment on a bestiality billboard in Kings Cross, ACL spokeswoman Wendy Francis was right on the money when she said “The damage is already done. It's already up now, it's got media attention. This is exactly what these advertisers want. They know this is damaging children. They know that this is not normal behaviour. They know that it will create attention.”
The image was to promote the upcoming British television mini-series Black Mirror which is to screen on the Foxtel Channel Studio as part of its “Festival of WTF”.
By mid-afternoon 2GB’s Ben Fordham, who was planning to run the story and about to do an interview with Wendy Francis, was contacted by Foxtel to say they were pulling the billboard down – describing it as a “lapse of judgement by Studio and a failure in the approvals process at Foxtel". 2GB dropped the story altogether to prevent any further media attention surrounding the billboard.
To our surprise, the SMH story
reflecting Foxtel’s decision to pull the advertising featured an advertisement promoting the “Festival of WTF”.
Overnight, ACL’s Managing Director Lyle Shelton wrote an opinion piece which was published early this morning in Online Opinion
pointing out the discrepancy and the ongoing challenge of self-regulation in this environment: “Foxtel’s promise to remove its bestiality billboard – just hours after ACL’s Wendy Francis was interviewed by the Sydney Morning Herald online - is too little too late and highlights the on-going appalling failure of self-regulation.”
After releasing a media release this morning questioning why Fairfax Media was helping Foxtel cash in on the controversy, we were contacted by Fairfax Media to let us know that the advertising was suppressed on the article and “The two being side by side was purely coincidental.”
Although there was swift action from Foxtel and Fairfax Media, the events of the last 24 hours show the advertising industry is testing the limits of public backlash. The current system allows the industry to test these boundaries whereas we should be striving towards a society where outdoor advertising is “G” rated to protect our young. As Lyle Shelton said in his opinion piece today “Australians have to decide whether or not we wish to live in a civil society. It is time we pushed back on the incursion into our lives of outrageous and damaging imagery peddled by the pornography industry and now mainstreamed by the advertising industry.”
We eagerly await government’s intervention and our eyes are particularly on Queensland with the attorney general’s decision for the government to regulate outdoor advertising.