The Prime Minister has weighed in over the Big Brother Turkey Slapping incident, calling for Channel 10 to 'get this stupid program off the air'. But since the offending footage only ever aired over the internet, a new government enquiry could place further limitations on what you do and watch online.
This week’s resultant media storm over the latest - and most serious - Big Brother controversy has seen many commentators, including the Prime Minister, weigh in with opinion along the lines of “get this stupid program off the air”.
In this vein, most of the flak (and political points-scoring) has focused on Big Brother as a TV show. However, the greater implications - for the BB brand and censorship in Australia generally - will be felt on the internet.
The incident which sparked the furore occurred in the early hours of Saturday morning, when it is alleged two of the male contestants sexually harassed a female housemate.
The two men were later escorted from the house by security guards. Channel Ten did not air footage of the incident, but streaming web video of the event via Big Brother’s official web site did not escape the attention of online viewers.
After reviewing the incident as recorded by BB’s cameras, Queensland police decided not to proceed with a criminal investigation (owing to a lack of sufficient evidence).
The resulting controversy over the behaviour of the housemates - and Channel Ten’s exploitative role in being the provider of such “entertainment” - has dominated the week’s media.
While the mainstream debate has largely surrounded the TV incarnation of Big Brother - undoubtedly the brand’s most obvious, profitable and consumed form - the events of this week would have played out very differently without the internet and the BB web site.
In a sense, this is very much an internet event which has impacted upon a brand and insitution that most associate only with television.
For example, the only way in which one could actually see the offending footage was on the internet; originally via the web cast and later through other sites.
The Sydney Morning Herald posted a link to the “incident” and YouTube (amongst others) hosted the content.
Although Channel Ten has never aired it (with the exception of the original streaming web cast which occurred “live”), the station has copped much criticism for the way in which it has stood by the infamous program.
Yesterday, Communications minister Helen Coonan issued a media release stating that, in relation to the incident, the “Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) will be directed to undertake a detailed review of the free to air television code of practice and legislation will be introduced into Parliament to extend content regulation to video streamed on the Internet”.
This action might represent the first political maneuver to not consitute pure rhetoric and may contradict the postion taken by the Prime Minister, who arguably had his cake and ate it too by commenting that “here's a great opportunity for Channel Ten to do a bit of self-regulation and get this stupid program off the air." (Emphasis added).
On the other side of the fence, Australian Democrats senator Andrew Bartlett advised politicans to butt out of the fracas and quit scoring political points.
Senator Bartlett reminded that the “original Big Brother was a politician in a book by George Orwell who used political power to control every aspect of people's lives, from what they said, did and watched, right down to their private thoughts".
Regardless of what you think of the show - and certainly, the incident has sparked wide-scale public outrage - is increasingly conservative censorship (as reported by APC in relation to the recent banning of the Reservoir Dogs game here and here) likely to be the answer?
“Reality” or not, what you watch in the comfort of your own home - whether on your TV or PC - might have just gotten a lot more narrow.