A complaint about offensive television broadcasting

The following is an open letter to the Australian Communications and Media Authority:


I wish to complain about the offensive content that lately passes for television programming.

I understand from your website, which is a bit of a circus to navigate by the way, that in the first instance I should take up any issues with the offending broadcaster. However, as all of the commercial networks, as well as SBS, are culpable in this matter, I judge the issue serious enough to take directly to you for action.

Before you file this in the ‘people fed up with reality TV’ folder, I can assure you that my complaint does not relate to the latest iteration of Masterchef, The Block, Biggest Loser or Celebrity Apprentice. As bad as these offerings are, there are other programs that do far more lasting harm to the national psyche, if you will permit me to provide the following evidence.

On 22 June and again on 6 July, Channel 10 showed a bunch of large unattractive albinos beating the Wallabies. A stronger word than beating is needed for the 6 July encounter. Thumping, annihilating, rogering, you get the drift. As I watched, I had one burning question: how did Mike Tindall score himself a Royal? But that probably falls outside ACMA’s purview.

There were only two positives about this particular television fare: at least we didn’t have to suffer the ignominy of a Quade Cooper fumble and after the final Test we were finally able to rid ourselves of the All Blacks ring-in that masqueraded as the Wallabies coach for six years. In terms of Aussie pride, however, it was pretty lean pickings.

For Exhibit B, I turn to Channel 7’s coverage of Wimbledon. One thing we could always look forward to during these two weeks was the violent dashing of British hopes. Tim Henman could always be counted on to fall short of inflated Pommie expectations and for a time Andy Murray lumbered capably in his footsteps. But on 7 July, there was the dour Scot holding up the trophy. I can only assume the footage was doctored in some way and I hope you will investigate this as a matter of urgency.

One week later and Channel 9 voiced its confidence in our Ashes campaign by relegating its coverage to its Gem offshoot. Despite the snub, we rallied and on the final day of the first Test, a side riven with dissent and personality clashes and, under Michael Clarke’s tutelage, lacking the mongrel of old, was just a few boundaries away from pulling off an unlikely win. Just when we started to believe the unbelievable, it all ended like the season finale of Downton Abbey.

Last week, it wasn’t safe to turn on the telly at all. Gem offered Aussie bowling being taken apart by a bloke called Root, practically virginal in the ways of international cricket. Over on SBS, we’ve had to endure the spectacle of a Pom winning the Tour de France and that’s just bad, bad deja vu, while our ailing Aussie hero Cadel Evans limped his way to Paris, no easy feat on a bike. Over on Foxtel, we were offered the British Open, where Adam Scott put his 2012 demons to bed by creating entirely new ones in 2013. As you can see, there’s not one sport a self-respecting Aussie couch potato can follow.

You might wonder what this has to do with you, ACMA.

You would be aware, seeing you police it, that Australian broadcasters are required under theBroadcasting Services Act 1992 to offer programs reflecting the Australian identity and character and in keeping with community standards.

Our community standards dictate that on the field of play, Aussies must prevail. It’s what we’re used to and it’s what we expect. That’s the Australian identity and character. Showing anything to the contrary is therefore a flagrant breach of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992requiring ACMA’s expeditious and rigorous intervention.

I must also stress it’s not just national pride and bragging rights at stake here. Surely it hasn’t escaped your attention the correlation between Australia’s economic fortunes and our lack of sporting success.

So for the good of the country and the welfare of its citizens, I beseech you ACMA, do something. Licence revocations, broadcasting blackouts, this is all at your disposal. Right now, I’d settle for a totalitarian regime that lied to its people, so desperate have we become for a bit of sporting glory. Just please make it safe to watch the telly again.

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