In a major response to public fury over a sketch this week, the ABC has opted to withdraw The Chaser’s War on Everything from its schedule for two weeks.
ABC Managing Director Mark Scott made the decision following the controversy surrounding The Chaser’s sketch, “Making A Realistic Wish Foundation,” that went to air on Wednesday night.
The sketch depicted child actors as terminally-ill patients and was roundly blasted from manysections of media, politics, health industry and community. It illustrated the programme needs better checks and balances for what qualifies as satire, given the ABC recently pulled an ad parody from The Gruen Transfer.
It was only the second episode back on air after an 18 month production break. ABC is yet to indicate what will replace it.
The decision, made with the ABC’s Director of Television, Kim Dalton, followed discussions with The Chaser team.
“We have decided that this is the most appropriate course of action,” Mark Scott said.
“It gives the ABC an opportunity to complete a review of editorial approval processes. It also gives The Chaser a chance to regroup and review their material.
“In making the wrong judgement call we have let down our audience and the wider community. We need to fully review the ABC’s approval processes for programs that deliberately challenge public attitudes.”
Scott has unreservedly apologised for the distress caused, admitting the sketch had gone too far.
“While unintended, it has caused considerable concern and distress particularly to parents of seriously ill children,” he said.
In a blanket statement on their website The Chaser team says it is “disappointed by the decision, and we don’t agree with it. But that aside, we’d like to apologise.
“The piece was a very black sketch. Obviously too black. And we’re really sorry for the significant pain and anger we have caused.
“Many people have asked how could we possibly think a sketch like that should go to air. We realise in hindsight that we shouldn’t have done it. We never imagined that the sketch would be taken literally. We don’t think sick kids are greedy and we don’t think the Make a Wish Foundation deserves anything other than praise. It was meant to be so over-the-top that no one would ever take it seriously. But we now understand the sketch didn’t come across as intended, and we take full responsibility for that.
“Now we’ve seen the impact of the piece we wish we’d thought it through better. There was no value in it that justifies the impact it’s clearly had on people whose grief or trauma is so great already. We should have considered that.
“We got it wrong. We’re sorry.”
The move to suspend the show is an extremely rare one in local television, usually confined to particular performers who are deemed to have gone too far. The most famous response to a programme being pulled was when Kerry Packers pulled Doug Mulray’s Naughtiest Home Videos off air mid-programme.
The Chaser controversy this week will now surely become part of television infamy.