MAFS complaint cleared by media watchdog

Married at First Sight has been cleared by the media watchdog following complaints about language, abuse, alcohol and classification.

Two episodes aired in February with an M classification in a 7:30pm slot, with complaints they were ‘abusive’ and included ‘coarse language’, ‘excessive alcohol drinking’, ‘adultery’, ‘deceit’ and ‘deception’. It included what appeared to be aggressive “F-bombs” which were bleeped.

One complaint centred around the argument between Ines and Bronson over a parasailing event on their TV honeymoon. One complainant said, “If that was a man yelling at a woman, he would be arrested or reprimanded.” Another said of the show, “The persons on the show are only interested in being famous and MAFS is just a smut show being aired at 7:30pm.”

Under the classification rules, coarse language is permitted but aggressive or strong coarse language should be infrequent overall.

In its response to the Australian Communications and Media Authority Nine submitted, “that due to the nature of the reality experiment format, circumstances of heightened emotion and conflict can arise between participants and given the unscripted nature of the program, some coarse language can result. However, not only is this language permitted by the Guidelines, but Nine also took steps to ensure that the impact of slightly stronger coarse language was appropriately moderated. For example, expletives of mild to moderate impact such as ‘bullshit’ and ‘shit’ were sparing throughout the program and were not beeped, whereas expletives of stronger impact such as ‘f***’ were entirely beeped to mollify their impact.”

Nine also said consumption of alcohol at dinner parties was incidental to and justified by the context in which it appears, if participants chose to imbibe. It denied its use was excessive.

“For example, no participant had slurred speech or was unable to balance such that they fell over. Accordingly, Nine submits that the [Complainant 2] Episode depicted adults legally consuming alcohol at a dinner party,” said Nine.

Another complaint deemed the show inappropriate for a 7pm Sunday timeslot in a PG timeslot, with 14 instances of mild coarse language, including terms such as ‘arse’, ‘shit’, ‘d***’, ‘d***head’, ‘pisses me off’, ‘pissed me off’ and ‘pussy’.

In a PG slot mild or socially offensive coarse language may be used infrequently, when justified by the story line or program context.

“Nine also ensured that expletives of stronger impact such as ‘f***’ were entirely beeped and blurred so as to negate their impact. Nine submits that these measures complied with the Guidelines as it ensured that higher impact coarse language was not broadcast during a PG programme,” said Nine.

Nine also defended, “The Episode did not contain any visual depiction of sexual activity. The only references to sexual content contained in the Episode were by way of verbal references. Nine again notes that viewers were given ample warning of this content at the commencement of the Episode via the visual warning which advised that the program contained sexual references.”

Nine was cleared by the Australian Communications and Media Authority on all counts.


  1. Airing it at 7pm on a Sunday with a PG rating always felt like cheating to me. Conveniently changing the classification only on Sundays so they could air it in the earlier time slot. It’s very much an M-rated show, and not really suitable for children.

  2. “Shit” and “bullshit” have always been permitted at the PG category and are considered mild. The only time they would be considered moderate is if they are used in excess and/or very aggressively. The complainant sounds like the sort of person who gasps at *any* naughty word.

    “Arse/ass/bastard” have, historically, almost always been permitted at the G category, though I find it odd that a single use is enough to get something slapped with a PG nowadays (which I feel is far too high considering the frequency and strength of coarse language permitted at the PG category). “Arsehole”, however, usually warrants an automatic PG (and should).

    I think pre-programme classification warnings should return as opposed to the tiny blink-or-you’ll-miss-it on-screen warnings (that are barely legible on the SD channels) so that audiences are adequately informed of a programme’s content.

    • I see pre-programme classification warnings often on Foxtel and ABC, but not on the other free-to-air channels. Perhaps they should be made compulsory.

      • I see. My ABC viewing is completely via iView these days. I assume SBS airs warnings as well.

        I’m assuming that the networks have cut them in order to squeeze in more ads in their place. I found it troubling that just as FTA rules were loosened to allow PG content all day and M content from 7.30 onward that pre-programme classification warnings were eliminated by the commercial networks while I would argue that they are needed more than ever.

        Yes, most TVs have parental controls, but I don’t know anybody who uses them, and many family restaurants have TVs screening content after 7.30.

        • You are lucky to get a postcard sized classification icon in the corner of the screen for more than a couple of seconds on FTA. Anything to keep the audience from switching off between shows!

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