Pay attention to what’s happening down under

If you’ve not heard by now, the Australian version of the show “Big Brother” has caused a hornet’s nest of controversy over sexual conduct between two of the male characters and a woman contestant. Both of the male contestants were removed from the show for violation of rules. The incident didn’t occur on-the-air; it was seen via the live internet version (at 4:30am Saturday).

What’s important here is that this didn’t occur over regulated airwaves, but Australian lawmakers now want to extend broadcast supervision to the internet in the name of protecting families “from exposure to offensive material.” One can speculate about the chances of this happening, but that’s not the point. The more legislative bodies attempt to apply top-down (modernist) mechanics to regulating online content, they more they run into a structure that was designed to avoid command-and-control functionality. Where do you draw the line without stepping all over personal — and guaranteed — freedoms? How do you actually implement such controls on those outside your area of jurisdiction?

This is a new world into which we’ve entered, and old laws and methods of enforcement — like everything else — must conform to that which is new. People will simply not stand for governmental interference here, and the more they attempt to interfere, the more visible becomes the political motivation for so doing. As I’ve said before, the internet is taking us to a place where the more we holler at the moon, the louder comes a voice saying, “What do you want?” I view this as a good thing, because it forces the realities of our connectedness and the need to face our problems in a way that’s completely new. If we truly want a government of the people, then we must be prepared to accept the consequences of our actions. As long as we can shift the burden of those consequences to others (the government), then there’s little need for us to carry the load ourselves, and yet that’s exactly what is required of an informed citizenry.

Jeff Jarvis notes this morning that:

The FCC has asked a federal court to delay action by three network affiliates appealing a recent indecency order so it can hear the affiliates’ arguments and reconsider the case. The ABC, NBC, and CBS affiliates concurred; Fox’s stations did not…The FCC has studiously avoided court tests of its indecency rulings and I wonder whether this is another effort to sidestep the Constitutional challenge that is inevitable.
The last thing the FCC wants is to get into the court system, because it will lose the constitutional challenge to which Jeff refers. That will have a cascading effect on all previous commission decisions and ultimately lead, I believe, to its destruction. We don’t need media interpretation for us to see what’s really taking place — that the FCC serves the political agenda of the party in control of the chairs. We know this, because their actions cannot be hidden anymore. Too many eyes are watching and relaying what they’re finding. This is what I mean by the new clarity with which political bullshit can now be seen.

The FCC was created to regulate spectrum, for crying out loud, not to make viewing choices for us.

Does something need to be done to “protect” us from the excesses of human nature? Nothing new there, but what is new is the increasing and healthy shift of that burden to ourselves. Technology is our friend here, not another straw man to exploit for political gain.


  1. Hi Terry,

    I took a look at the Australian article, and quite frankly I’m more concerned whether or not an assault took place rather than censorship at this point. (and if it did, then there should be actions beyond merely dismissing the guys from the show.)

    Reality TV may have gone too far in that it is not differentiating between what is consesual and what might constitute an assault–not to mention that there are few rules how to handle a bad situation when it arises. That issue came up a couple of months ago re Diane Sawyer’s lack of response when a tv camera, placed in the home of a family for a “reality” segment, recorded the teen-age daughter being beaten with fists by her step-father.

    Sawyer did not do anything about the situation, and neither did anyone in the production unit. Yet they aired the beating four times in one day and would have continued had the teenager, now 19, not protested the airing.

    From my observations of the genre, there’s not much thought that goes into reality tv, hence no policies on how to handle situations that spin out of control, whether on air or on ‘net. That, perhaps, is the more immediate, and important problem.

  2. I don’t disagree with you, Tish. But I think that’s a different issue — perhaps more important, yes — but I was merely examining the reaction. As always, I appreciate your comments. Thanks.

  3. As an Australian in the media industry I’ve been following this as it’s gone along. Just to point out a few more things, the incident was originally shown on the internet at an 18+ subscription only service. It didn’t get real viewership until the commercial network news got a hold of it and started plastering it about the place to boost their own ratings (and hopefully derail a popular show). Unfortunately, the focus of this incident has moved away from whether the incident was consentual or appropriate, and more towards the evils of the internet as seemingly a “broadcast loophole.” That the government is in the process of going through media reform just adds to the ammunitiion of certain sectors in the industry. As Tish mentioned, it’s a pity the social discussion has been hijacked.

    Just for the record, the police are not laying charges because they don’t have evidence that a crime took place. I’m not sure if that says more about the incident than anything else.

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