Actually yes, you can use the C-word on TV.

Censoring, pixellation, extra warnings... here's why there was no problem with what Nine broadcast last night.

Before I unpack a moment from last night’s TV let me firstly say in no way do I condone the use of the C-word directed by male at a female.

Nor do I welcome its use on television per se.

But rules are rules, and last night Nine did not breach any broadcasting standards as we know them. Media suggestions that we are in “unchartered territory” are off the mark….

Nine bleeped the use of the word last night when Bronson directed it to Ines on Married at First Sight. His mouth was also pixellated, meaning viewers had to guess to his wording (now revealed through media articles today).

Nine unusually also ran a disclaimer before two segments, highlighting the adult themes (most of which were around partner-swapping). Bronson was also admonished by expert Mel Schilling, which further assists with the context.

And context is everything in such situations. Media watchdog the Australian Communications and Media Authority does not have a list of naughty words that can or cannot be used. It all comes back to the situation, how it was used and the number of times.

Updated: Nine classified the episode as PG. M rated cannot air until 7:30pm.

Last year ABC was given the all clear over its use on Tonightly with Tom Ballard because Greg Larsen used it with humour. ABC apologised for its use nevertheless, as it did when Clementine Ford used it on Hack Live.

There was certainly no humour last night, which is why it was censored, pixellated, admonished with appropriate warnings. Failing to do these could have landed Nine in hot water.

At the same time this was unfolding, on I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here Richard Reid was joking with Justin Lacko about pick-up lines and fleetingly joked about staying at a hotel under the name “Big D*** Reid.” None of the media outrage today has been directed his way. It went uncensored, but given it is his name 10 would probably get a free pass too.

ACMA’s Code of Practice is intended to reflect community standards, so if viewers have issues with what’s currently acceptable on broadcast television it’s up to the community to respond.

Anecdotally, they appear more outraged over levels of violence on TV than language or sex, at least based on numerous surveys conducted at TV Tonight.

42 Responses

  1. This show has far greater problems than gratuitous use of swear words. Much more concerning are the subtle messages about fake marriages, abusive relationships, adultery, vanity. And society wonders why relationship breakdown (and the terrible damage it causes) is becoming more of a problem.

  2. There is a touch of a Jewish Grandmother in me, in that I generally am a sucker for “matchmaking” shows. But right from the start I could see the writing on the wall with this show. Show producers, like a lot of other professions, work on the adage – when you are on a good thing stick to it. The cheating storyline last year was such a ratings winner that the temptation to replicate it is just too tempting. The show the other day (prior to last night) was not too subtle in telegraphing where it was going and surprise surprise what do we see last night – a potential hook up outside the existing couples.

    I am neither surprise nor personally upset with what went on with MAFS – it is just fast food manufactured junk TV. It is what it is. I am no big fan of reality TV, but when it is real it can be very powerful (i.e. Yvie the other night on I am a Celebrity). But these…

  3. I’ve just seen a few minutes of ‘MAFS & Lies’ and I was so annoyed at the ,like, ridiculously bad language.
    It was ,like, so ,like, on and on, like, never being able to ,like, complete, like , even more than ,like, four words without ,like , saying friggin “like”.—————–Aughhhhhhhhh !

  4. Profanities and coarse language, such as bloody, crap and the sh*t were highly offensive many decades ago. They had a vulgarity status that would be similar to which the c-word is considered to have in recent and modern times. A lot of coarse language seems to have become less offensive over time. The board of classification uses the terms mild and strong to differentiate the level of vulgarity for coarse language.

  5. Just thinking, didn’t they use to drop the c word on Sex and the City often? I didn’t really watch it but I used to be somewhere lurking in the background while my daughter used to watch it !

  6. I think we need to hear more of it on tv. People are too uptight as it is, there’s way too many unnecessary taboos in life. It wasn’t violence or sex, just a word (and as many have argued today on social media, probably used accurately for his situation). MAFS airing the C word is just an example of a Reality program actually reflecting reality for a change!

  7. In the golden are of Australian TV there where words you could never say. the F and C words obviously and bizarrely the word “shit”. Using these words was a huge no no and famously Graham Kennedy got banned from TV for his “ark” crow call that had an F at the start.

    Obviously with PC there are now many more words you can’t say on TV, unless the time slot permits it and again if you manage to offend enough people you could be in trouble

    Buzzfeed have a list of 68 words you can’t say on TV (in the US) I’d assume we’d have a similar stance on those words.

    The biggest thing is context. that being said saying the C word to a woman is disgusting and shows how repulsive this contestant on this show is.

  8. The first time I saw plane, trains and automobiles was on tv. The infamous car rental check in scene was definitely not as funny as when saw the uncut profaniety laced version . Ah different times of innocent tv

  9. It’s about time we got a bit more decorum back into society regardless of the time something is aired. The Media Watchdog, The Australian Communications and Media Authority should make up a list of words that aren’t acceptable. It wouldn’t be a very long list as most swear words are milder than the c & f word. I find them disgusting and see no need what so ever o use them at any time.

  10. Hi David,
    Married at First Sight last night was classified as PG, not M.
    M cannot air at 7pm.
    It was a disgrace this sort of content was allowed to pass the censors & Parental Guidance rules.

      1. Tricky or purposely deceitful with some incorrect guide info?
        Interesting that all episodes are classified M except for the Sunday ‘PG’ episode (that contained the highest level of language of them all)

          1. The SMH weekly print guide ‘The Guide’ notes MAFS as ‘PGals’ for Sunday Feb 10’s episode. Every other ep of MAFS that week, and also this week, in that guide is ‘Mals’ – except for Sunday 17, which is again ‘PGals’.
            Every other ep

  11. Oh get over it. The C-word has been used a number of times on the TV. Does everybody rememeber the show Sex And The City. The C-word was used on that show a couple of times, and The Sopranos.

  12. David is correct in asserting that the ACMA and therefore networks treat violence differently (remember the AV15+ anyone?)

    Last night Nine heavily edited the film “Hannibal” (2001) on 9Gem, following an ACMA investigation 2 years ago and a series of classification changes by the Classification Board in regards to the film. Interestingly, the latest classification for the film (a Blu-Ray uncut) is MA15+, yet Seven then nor Nine last night we’re having a bar of that, being overly careful and safe.

    Nine removed more scenes than Seven did last night, butchering the infamous ‘dinner’ scene with Ray Liotta’s head cut open and the rest , as well as an earlier ‘eviceration’ scene and a flashback scene with a character eating flesh off his own face.

    The TV classification system is still flawed beyond belief.

  13. I think there is more outrage over judge Mel admonishing Bronson over the way he spoke about/to Ines but none of the judges say anything about Ines and her foul mouth towards him. Even a petition going around calling for her to apologise to him.

    1. The judges probably hold back on her knowing she has enough problems in life with nothing whatsoever going for her. Bad attitude, no tact or charisma, thinks way too highly of herself and could replace Chris Lilley as Ja’mie in Summer Heights High but it would be reality TV not scripted. It can’t all be put on or edited to appear that way either, it’s completely fathomable that people like her live amongst us. Scary.

  14. …and can even be found in “G” or “PG” rated shows when someone is called a bit of a berk.
    “Berk” is just one of many examples of rhyming slang where the original word is obscured by the need for association to work it out; in this case “Berk” is short for Berkeley, part of the English countryside famous for a long standing fox chase, known as the Berkeley Hunt; however, when that is condensed down, it winds up being a rhyme for the word you refer to in the article above!
    I won’t go on any longer, for fear of being called a berk – boom tish!

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