Last night’s episode of The Gruen Transfer stirred up a hornets nest of discussion after one of the advertisements for The Pitch segment was not shown as it was deemed offensive by ABC management. Instead, host Wil Anderson introduced the acceptable commercial by the other “contestant” in the segment and advised viewers that if they wished to see the censored commercial they could visit a website.
You can view The Foundry’s withdrawn commercial here.
The topic of the brief for the segment was to create an ad to “END SHAPE DISCRIMINATION” against fat people.
A statement from ABC’s director of television said:
The episode was reviewed the following day and the decision made that the broadcast of The Pitch segment would breach ABC Editorial Policies.
Instead, the same government funded broadcaster created a website and posted the TVC there along with a 15 minute debate around the actual commercial.
What I found interesting was that the majority of Twitter talk around The Foundry’s piece was actually in favour of the ad. Likewise, media news site Mumbrella has received 60 comments to date (over 2 posts on the topic) mostly in favour of the ad.
The 15 minute debate with The Foundry’s Adam Hunt on the antiprejudicead.net website was mostly centered around the panel’s opinions of the commercial. Todd Sampson and Bram Williams were strongly against the ad while Russell Howcroft seemed more supportive (for the record Howcroft was the only one who voted for the ad at the recording of the program). The whole debate really focussed on why the ad does or doesn’t work.
Williams and Sampson seemed to question the ad along the lines of “the audience might not be smart enough to get the message” of the confronting prejudice shown in the piece, that it might be misconstrued as endorsing prejudiced behaviour. That seems to be the height of arrogance to me. Williams made a similar comment on air during the show along the lines of “people are idiots”.
The big question that should have been discussed though is, was it right to censor the piece?
This is the same broadcaster that ran the controversial incest ad on Gruen only a few weeks earlier. It the same broadcaster that ony two nights earlier ran the 4 Corners rugby league sex story along with explicit images of genitalia and graphic, harrowing group sex / gang bang descriptions.
Why were those efforts acceptable and The Foundry’s ad not acceptable?
Sampson & Williams kept saying that the audience may not “get it” as if this were a real ad for a real campaign that was actually going to be shown more than once on commercial networks. That’s where I fell they miss the point. This ad, like all other ads in The Pitch, isn’t intended for commercial viewing. The whole concept is around “selling the unsellable” and then debating it.
Without wanting to generalise too much about demographics, The Foundry made a commercial to be aired on The Gruen Transfer on the ABC at 9.00pm. Its is largely accepted that the viewers are well educated and highly informed. Many are also from the advertising and media industry. Its not Neighbours. The Foundry understood who the audience was for this show, but maybe the panelists forgot.
The issue for me is who decides what is acceptable ad what isn’t? I found both the incest ad and the The Foundry’s anti-fat discrimination ad to be confronting and thought provoking. Whether the execution was right is another debate. But they both deserved to be aired and the audience treated with enough respect to make their own decisions.
As a side note, the decision to run the ad and discussion on an accompanying website was inspired. The debate was some of the most interesting content to ever be shot on Gruen and took the show away from the cheap gags that tend to dominate the program. It demonstrated how networks can take viewers from one platform to another for more information, details, debate, exclusive content or even “censorable” content. There should be more of it.
So, what is your opinion of the censorship issue here? We don’t need more debate around the execution or whether the ad “worked”, I’d like to know whether you think ABC was right in censoring this piece.