ABC Managing Director Michelle Guthrie insists that the broadcast last week of a "comedy" skit on the program Tonightly with Tom Ballard, where the Australian Conservatives’ candidate for the Victorian seat of Batman, Kevin Bailey, was labelled a, “c***” was not in breach of any of the ABC’s editorial and classification standards.
Replying to a letter of complaint from Australian Conservatives’ leader Cory Bernardi, Ms Guthrie wrote:
“I can assure you the material was reviewed by the program team prior to broadcast and posting, ensuring it complied with the ABC’s editorial standards on harm and offense and also the appropriate classification standards.”
“While personal views on the use of coarse language and other potentially offensive content will differ widely across the community, the classification standards and the ABC’s harm and offence standards exist to ensure that broad community standards and audience expectations are consistently considered.”
“The principles underpinning the ABC’s standards acknowledge that:
The community recognises that what is and is not acceptable in ABC content largely depends on the particular context, including the nature of the content, its target audience, and any signposting that equips audiences to make informed choices about what they see, hear or read. Applying the harm and offence standard, therefore, requires careful judgment. What may be inappropriate and unacceptable in one context might be appropriate and acceptable in another. Coarse language, disturbing images or unconventional situations may form a legitimate part of reportage, debate, documentaries or a humorous, satirical, dramatic or other artistic work.”
“The comments in relation to Mr. Bailey were part of a broader comedy sketch which was primarily concerned with exploring the implications of re-naming the electorate of Batman.”
“There was certainly no intention, in the context of an absurd comedy sketch, to make any comments that could be reasonably understood as a serious and genuine criticism of Mr. Bailey.”
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Read Michelle Guthrie's full letter below: