Media Release: Friday, September 18, 2009

In the face of growing levels of sex and violence on TV, the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) today launched a Tame the Tube campaign aimed squarely at commercial television’s lax code of practice.

The campaign is designed to activate people to have their say on declining TV standards and to rebuff industry moves to not only further weaken TV standards but to stifle public complaints in the process.

Free TV Australia – the representative body for commercial TV – is currently undertaking its first wholesale review of the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice in six years and the ACL is urging people to make their voices heard in demanding appropriate limits on sex and violence in the interest of better protecting kids.

“It would be hard to find a parent in Australia who is happy with the standard of content on commercial television screens. Sex, violence and foul language are almost normal fare these days as TV networks continue to push the boundaries of what’s acceptable as part of their all-consuming quest for ratings,” ACL Managing Director Jim Wallace said.

“Is it really good enough that last year the f-word was used 80 times in one 45-minute program screened by Channel Nine at 8.30 pm and that in another program in the same time-slot a woman was anally raped? Or that in late 2007 Channel Ten’s Californication, billed as the ‘filthiest show on television’ and screened at 9.45 pm, was promoted to children watching Australian Idol in an earlier timeslot? Or what about the increasing number of PG programs with growing levels of violence?

“At a time when Free TV Australia should be improving standards they are instead trying to make things even worse. Not only do they want to make it easier to promote and broadcast programs full of smut and violence, but they want to stifle complaints from people who don’t like it.

“The campaign officially launched today on our Make a Stand website at encourages people to make their concerns known by opposing these moves and insisting on tougher classification guidelines which set clearer limits on what can be shown on TV.”

Mr Wallace said that Free TV Australia has proposed a number of changes to the Code of Practice which would be of concern to many viewers. These include:

• Allowing PG programs to be screened at any time on the new digital multichannels (which everyone has to switch over to by 2013). If this happens it would mean there would be NO set time of the day when commercial stations had to screen G-rated programs – a big problem for parents of young children;

• Extending the times when MA programs can be advertised, and thereby attracting more children to watch programs which are unsuitable;

• Changing the guidelines for MA programs so that sex scenes no longer have to be “discreet” and they “may contain detail” (i.e. making them even more explicit);

• Stopping people from complaining if they haven’t personally seen the offending program and treating a series of complaints from a group of people about the same subject matter as a SINGLE complaint – requiring only one response.

“None of these proposals are about what’s good for the community – they’re all about letting the TV networks get away with more and ensuring that the community has even less ability to complain when they go too far,” Mr Wallace said.

He said that all of these proposals should be thrown out and replaced with changes which will benefit the community, such as:

• Ridding the Code of Practice of all the vague phrases – or ‘wriggle-room’ - in the classification guidelines which broadcasters are using to justify screening inappropriate content on ‘artistic’ or ‘story line’ grounds. These need to be replaced with clear and specific limits which don’t give TV networks so much leeway.

• Greater – not less – restrictions on the promotion of M, MA and AV programs at times when children may be watching TV. MA and AV programs should only be promoted after 8.30 pm and M-rated programs only after 7.30 pm (or during M-rated time slots).

• TV stations should be more accountable. Section 1.5 of the Code should be changed so that there aren’t so many grounds for a breach of the Code to be excused.

• People should be allowed to lodge formal complaints via email in future, instead of only by fax or post.

“People only have until September 25 to respond to the revised Code of Practice and we’re urging them to get their comments in quickly. We want to send a clear message to the commercial TV networks that, when it comes to sex, violence and demeaning behaviour on TV, it’s time for a break in transmission!” Mr Wallace said.

Media Contact: Glynis Quinlan