ABC pulls The Chaser for 2 weeks. Team apologises.

the-chasersIn 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.

72 Comments:

  1. They call it their ‘never ending war on everything’, well, it’s time we started the never ending war on the chaser until these scum are off air for good!

  2. The sketch wasnt that bad….I dont know why this has so much steem. I feel Like I have seen it before anyway. Reminds me of The Late Show (Aus) commentary where they couldnt have the kid looking scared when Robert De Niro, as Santa, yells at him.

  3. Gail the Camel

    Remember when the last series started, & how the Chaser hated
    its 9pm Wednesday time slot?
    Anyone suspect that this latest debacle is the team’s way of saying
    to the ABC “See what happens if we don’t get what we want?”.
    It would be a *form* of Warfare… 🙂

  4. Meh, I didn’t like the sketch and I’m not concerned about the ABC’s decision to pull it off the air for a few weeks. The bottom line is it wasn’t funny, had a major potential ability to cause real distress to real people (parents, siblings, friends of sick or deceased children) and should not have been aired by our public broadcaster.
    Neon Kitten, you are imploring us all to “be human” but seem to have forgotten about what should be our most basic human behaviour: to care about the feelings of others.
    Regardless, The Chaser is now obviously a victim of their own success and appear to have finally been given enough rope to do the inevitable.

  5. I’m sick of the Australian media for blowing this up, i’m sick of the australian public for getting upset over stupid little things and I’m sick of ABC pulling their only decent show

  6. Terrible looks like we are heading down the path of the US where stupid minority are given way too much power and the result is something like this……. this is just way too extreme a response, yes it was low, yes it was probably better off not being aired but it was funny and this is a sketch/send up show so what did people expect???

  7. Chasers = black satirical comedy

    lol at comments from people who do not even watch the show but are now instant experts on the Chasers

    Strip away all the emotion and now PC overkill around this and let’s ask a realistic question – how much of the money donated to any charity actually reaches that charities “recipients” – puts a different perspective on this.

  8. A hot topic around the country, obviously. All opinions are welcome guys, but please remember to be succinct and respectful to all as per Comments Policy. I prefer not to edit for length.

  9. Someone BBBA

    The arguments of those advocating censorship seem to be getting even more hysterical. Posters such as Paull and Janey seem to have taken it upon themselves to decide what is and what is not acceptable. It’s almost as though they actually believe that they have some sort of superhuman ability to make such determinations on behalf of the rest of us. I suggest that these people take some time out from in front of the TV, and do some serious philosophical research and thinking as to who and what they really are. Hopefully then they will realise that they are far too hopelessly bound by their own limited, sensory experiences to ever make such judgments. Hopefully then they will realise how disrespectful and immoral it is for them to force their own personal tastes on everyone else through the force of censorship, when in reality their tastes are no more good, bad, tangible or valid than those of the people who enjoyed the sketch.

    Paull said: “But censoring a show that makes fun of children who are terminally ill, isn’t censorship, rather, a responsible response.” A healthy hint Paull, it’s not a good idea to rest the entire premise of your argument on a paradox! Not only is it an embarrassment for yourself, but it also demonstrates a profound lack of respect towards your opposition. Paull also asked what our country would be like with no censorship. The answer? Exactly how the people of Australia want it to be! With the exception of the obvious material which in excess of 99.9 percent of Australians believe should be censored, such as child pornography, there is no need for the government to interfere in what what information we can have access to. The free market will determine community standards and operate in accordance with audience demands.

    Unfortunately, in this instance the ABC has contravened the will of its audience by succumbing to pressure from angry grandmas, talk back radio hosts and people who are suffering such terrible hardships at the moment that they are even less able to be objective than the rest of us, and hence even more out of place in their calls for censorship.

  10. @Paull
    No. I never said anything like that. This is political censorship, not paedophilia. No one was harmed in the making of it. It was merely censored because some people found it in poor taste.

  11. The question is to all you people defending The Chaser boys, would anyone think this skit was funny if Rove did it? Or Dave Hughes or Wil Anderson? It is unfortunate for the Chaser boys that two years ago they built their comedy reputation as going to the extreme i.e. making fun out of things that most comedians wouldn’t touch. Now without the usual suspects that filled their shows two years ago, they are finding new ways to offend people. If the skit was funny or clever, then maybe it could be excused, but it simply wasn’t. What kind of people sit around a room and decide that making fun of a charity that grants the last wish of dying children is comedy gold? Why would they even go there? Just because they are “The Chaser” and that’s what they do, is not enough of a reason for me. Just because we live in a society that practices freedom of speech, is also not a good enough reason. It is irresponsible and an abuse of that freedom to use it this way, and shows an arrogance and ignorance beyond comprehension. What makes it worse is that these guys initially tried to defend the skit saying it was not meant to be taken literally. How is it meant to be taken when you’re telling an actor playing a dying child on national television that they’re not worth wasting a wish on because they’re going to die anyway. In what universe is that considered funny?
    Nobody is saying to stop pushing the envelope and going where no comedian dares to go, but just be a little bit more sensitive in future and definitely steer clear of dying children, because no matter how hard you try…there is just no comedy or point in trying to surround a so-called comedy skit around that subject.

  12. It is a worry because they have shown they will cave in. The controversy would have gone away after a few days.

    In the future would they have suspended a show like Summer Heights High because of the presence of disabled kids and the jokes about rape, pedophilia and the Annabel Catt controversy.

  13. In Australia it’s become a crime to be offended by something.

    What sort of society do we want to become? One where Big Brother censors everything we see or hear to prevent some people being outraged, or one that values the freedom to make our own judgments on what’s right or wrong?

    I’d rather have the right to be absolutely offended than to have others deciding on my behalf about what I should be able to see… Sadly, as far as Chaser is concerned, faceless ABC overseers will now be making those decisions about what constitutes safe, palatable, non-controversial material.

    No wonder the Government gets away with concepts like mandatory censorship; Australians seem to thrive on bans and blacklisting!

  14. Its one thing to condemn a sketch but I think this move is abysmal on the ABC. I mean its free speech ffs! You don’t like it then don’t watch it.

  15. @Reubot: wow, I honestly can’t believe you can say that. So you’re basically saying we should live in an anarchist state, where, for fear of “censoring something completely offensive and inappropriate’ we just allow it… How do you think our country would end up?

    If our country was censoring something like ‘South Australian’s should be allowed plastic shopping bags’ because they didn’t like the ‘anti-environmental’ message, then ofcourse I too would be crying out Censorship. But censoring a show that makes fun of children who are terminally ill, isn’t censorship, rather, a responsible response.
    How about we just wait to the day that either you’re terminally ill, or have a child who is, then show you that exact same skit, and ask for your reaction then.

  16. How pathetic…what a bunch of wowsers. I certainly didn’t find it offensive. If people are so easily offended by ‘controversial’ humour, then don’t watch. And let’s be honest, the Chaser aren’t even pushing the envelope that much.

  17. I think the Chaser, and this sketch if funny, if not a little in bad taste. That would make it black comedy.
    Some people really think that means that I think dying children are funny, which of course isn’t true. This means people are the problem, not the comedy.

  18. Utterly spineless decision by the ABC, pandering to talkback radio morons who probably wouldn’t even watch the show anyway. Funny that the Australian public makes such an uproar over a fictional comedy skit, yet remains comparatively silent over the hateful, often racist reportage of the likes of Today Tonight and A Current Affair. Oh, that’s right, those shows aren’t on the ABC, so the nutters and whingers are more entitled to complain about this one. Looks like Andrew Hansen picked the wrong bit to attach his “angry letter writer” gag to this week!

    God forbid these people ever read the likes of Titus Andronicus, or even the Bible. Far worse stuff happens to small children there!

  19. This sets an ugly precedent because… mindless angry lynch mobs will become aware of their new found power and will become bigger, angrier and more mindless then they ever have before. Is this Australia’s nipplegate?

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