The Chaser team and the ABC have been dealt a final blow in the long-running battle between journalist and commentator Chris Kenny over a digitally-manipulated image of him engaged in bestiality.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) ruled that The Chaser show, The Hamster Decides, breached the ABC Code of Practice by broadcasting the image in September 2013.
The ACMA found the segment breached Standard 7.1, which requires that content likely to cause harm or offence be justified by its editorial context.
The government authority’s ruling said the sketch was “was intrinsically likely to have caused a high level of offence”, but acknowledged there were some mitigating factors.
ACMA chairman, Chris Chapman said the image “crossed the line” when it came to the ABC’s editorial policies.
“Robust debate is a common feature of Australian political discourse and artistic expression, and the ABC Code provides considerable latitude to the ABC to broadcast challenging content that may offend some audiences some of the time,” he said.
But ACMA found that there were potential difficulties in the broadcaster’s code, with Chapman adding “As a consequence of the complexities associated with the construction of the ABC’s Code, the ACMA has suggested that the ABC Board reflect on whether its code is operating effectively and as intended in the context of dealing with harm and offence.”
ACMA rejected complaints that the skit did not come with a warning and wasn’t properly classified, but the decision overturns the verdicts of the ABC’s internal complaints division, which concluded it did not breach editorial policies.
Kenny had sued the ABC for defamation and the case was settled out of court earlier this month and an on-air apology was broadcast. ABC managing director Mark Scott has also apologised to Kenny.
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