TEN incorrectly classified Big Mouth ads

big-mouthChannel TEN has been found to have incorrectly classified promotions for four of its programmes, Big Mouth, Animalia, Don’t Forget the Lyrics and Friends.

ATV10 and NEW Perth ran incorrect classification symbols with each programme, including three which were actually more restricted classifications.

In the case of Big Mouth, TEN’s Big Brother panel show, it also promoted the MA show at a time when such programmes should not be plugged.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority found that TEN ran:

* A promotion for the MA-classified program Big Brother Big Mouth incorrectly displayed a symbol for M classification, and was incorrectly broadcast at a time when the code does not permit promotions for MA programs
* A promotion for the C-classified program Animalia incorrectly displayed a symbol for G classification
* A promotion for the G-classified program Don’t Forget the Lyrics incorrectly displayed a symbol for PG classification
* A promotion for the G-classified program Friends incorrectly displayed a symbol for PG classification

Despite three over-zealous classifications, ACMA decrees that proper classification is required in order to advise viewers correctly.

“Our research confirms that families place great store on the use of classification symbols to help inform their decisions about the programs they watch,” said Chris Chapman, ACMA Chairman. “It is therefore very important that program promotions accurately indicate the classifications of the programs being promoted.”

Of interest also is a note from TEN to ACMA that indicates Big Mouth “has concluded and (ACMA) understands that it will not be broadcast in 2009.”

For such breaches, once again a television network says it has implemented additional safeguards to ensure it doesn’t repeat the error.

However, in 2006, ACMA found ATV10 breached the Code of Practice for running a Supernatural ad at an inappropriate time and agreed to distribute ACMA findings to its promotion staff to ensure future compliance.

On its latest decision, ACMA says it will consider stronger remedial action should further breaches by TEN occur.

Source: ACMA


  1. David, I fail to understand what your point is in saying “the show is made as MA regardless of whether it is live or recorded”. My point was that in many cases the network will not know what classification they are giving a program at the time the promotions go to air. The best they can do in such situations is to guess – and if they get it wrong, it doesn’t matter whether they provided a higher or lower classification than they gave the actual program – either way, ACMA has just demonstrated that they will be found in breach of the code. As I said, in the case of Big Mouth they should have figured by June that the episode would be assigned an MA classification, but this ruling also applies to any other show which has not been completed prior to the promotions commencing.

    My assumption that this ruling may also (in the future) have ramifications as to how “over-classified” programs are dealt with by ACMA is also valid. If they are applying this sort of reasoning to the classification advice given within promos, then it is completely sensible to assume that they would apply the same reasoning to the classifications awarded to actual programs. As far as I am aware the code does not state that an incorrect classification can be awarded so long as that classification is higher than the necessary classification.

    • Pretty simple. ie. Tomorrow night’s Footy Show is rated M. It’s live. It’s produced to adhere to M boundaries. The ads will run with an M. The network makes a decision about their show and classifies and promotes it accordingly.

      What you’re asking is ‘what if theoretically it turns out to be just PG rated content?’ Too bad. Networks have to bite the bullet based on what they are making. That’s a problem when they go over the line in live shows. That’s why we have producers. To ensure they don’t. The ads have to reflect whatever classification they have attached to their show. It’s not an “after the event” option.

  2. When you think about it, this actually creates a very disturbing precedent. At the time those Big Mouth adds were created, the actual content of the upcoming episode wouldn’t have been fully known yet. Of course, by June they probably should have realised the episode would end up being rated MA like all the others were, but the verdict would have been exactly the same if we were talking about any other program where the classification was unknown at the time advertisements first went to air.

    In this case, what are the networks supposed to do? They could over-classify the program in the promotions, but No – that’s against the rules too!

    And if it is in breach of the code to over-classify a promotion, then surely it must also be in breach of the code to over-classify an actual program? Where does that leave live programs? If Channel Ten classify an episode of So You Think You Can Dance PG (just in case) and it turns out to be G rated, does that mean they are in breach of the code? And is Home and Away technically breaching the code due to its default PG rating when some of the episodes could still be rated G? Hell, the real breach here might be that Big Mouth was wrongly classified MA, when in reality it should have been classified M (this was definitely the case with several of the episodes). Silly, silly ACMA…

    • There’s no confusion. The show is made as MA regardless of whether it is live or recorded. ‘Over-classifying’ in this ruling pertained to incorrect ads. The ads must represent the classification the network is giving the show so that the consumer is informed. If it turns out its content turned out to be tamer (and therefore in theory M or PG) it is not a breach. In the case of a live show having one classification and then content taking it to a higher classification, it is clearly a breach. There have been instances (such as Rove dropping the F word when he won the Gold Logie, or AFL players swearing after winning the Grand Final) when programmes went above. Nor can a show decide “oh its after 9:30 we can relax now”. The classification applies for the duration of the broadcast.

  3. Very few Big Mouth episodes actually deserved an MA15+ rating; but for Ten, it’s the safest option in order to avoid sanctions from the ACMA. The coarse language was frequently censored (stupidly enough), the nudity was natural, however, there were probably about 2 (maybe 3) episodes tops that would have deserved an MA15+ due to sexual references.

    However, my gripe with Channel Ten lies with their inconsistent classification guidelines. Yesterday afternoon (or the day before) they aired a PG rated episode of Judge Judy which contained frequent references to drug use and drug trafficking (and was rated so for “drug references, adult themes”). Within the context of the show, yes, it’s perfectly acceptable by PG standards, however, in a PG episode of The Simpsons, a single mention of “heroin” gets cut out, even though it’s justified by storyline.

    I’m tired of all this rampant (and unnecessary) censorship. The purpose of the classification system is to inform viewers of what each programme contains so we can make the decision as to whether or not we wish to be exposed that sort of content.

  4. One thing that wasn’t mentioned in the article, Big Mouth is recorded live (or near live), so there is no way that Ten would know what it is rated until the show aired. Maybe it was going to be an M rated show, but once it went to air, it was decided to rate it MA.

    • The subjects discussed were always of an MA nature, which was part of the reason for having the show. When it was announced it always intended to include the topics that were once on Uncut and therefore always MA.

  5. You have to ask the question – why does it take nearly a year for this all to come to light? What is bogging down the ACMA so much that they take 12 months rule on Big Mouth adverts?

    It should be 3 months, tops…

    Damn I’m gonna miss BB this year… πŸ™

  6. Now.. really what a load of utter crap.. who the hell should care if the networks “over rate” the show.. I mean, for goodness sake.. some people really have no lives to want to file a complaint about a show that was incorrectly rated “G” when it should have been “C”.. Or a show that was classified “PG” when it was “G”…. Who the hell cares.. I mean.. rating something “M” When it is “MA” is a different story.. but god.. I thought it was a typo when i first read it.. πŸ˜›

  7. Just a side note about incorrect classifications, last night on Channel 9 before Underbelly, the pre-show classification warning stating that it is classified M did not say anything about drug references, when the show clearly did contain drug references. It only mentioned ‘Strong Violence, Sex Scenes and Frequent Coarse Language’. This is just an observation and I am not actually complaining about this.

  8. “C-classified program Animalia incorrectly displayed a symbol for G classification”

    Oh my gosh thank heavens it’s ACMA to the rescue! πŸ˜‰ Now can they do something that’s really beneficial for the public rather than self-promotion?

  9. Must be hard for the network promo departments to keep up with all the different classifications. For example The Simpsons could be rated G, PG or M depending on the episode and timeslot it airs in. The same exact episode could be rated G on one airing in the weeknights 6pm slot and PG for a different airing in a say 7.30pm slot, with only minor differences to the content.

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