Report into whether Australian Big Brother breached online content laws to be handed down today

Tuesday, July 4, 2006

Australia's Federal Communications Minister, Senator Helen Coonan said on Monday that Australia's media watchdog would be handing a report into an alleged sexual misconduct incident which occurred on the set of Big Brother on July 1. The incident was not broadcast on television but was streamed across the Internet.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) are investigating the incident to determine if a breach of Australian online content laws occurred. The show's website streams footage from the house over the Internet 24 hours a day to subscribers aged 18 and over.

Senator Coonan assured the public that the incident would not be broadcast on television. "I have sought and obtained an undertaking from Channel 10 that they will not broadcast or promote this incident. However, prior to this undertaking, footage of the incident had already been streamed on the Internet to a limited audience via a paid service which is restricted to subscribers over the age of 18," she said.

Senator Coonan said the ACMA would investigate the Internet broadcast and hand down a report today. Under the Australian Broadcasting Services Act, 1992, it is illegal for content which would be refused classification or given a rating of X18+ to be broadcast via the Internet.

The communications minister said she was also concerned that media outlets provided access to footage of the incident on their websites. "I have asked that AMCA also assess this distribution of the material, and I have written to the media outlets in question this afternoon requesting that they immediately remove the material pending ACMA's findings," she said.

Despite Channel Ten being barred from showing the footage, both Channel 7 and Channel 9 have aired footage of the incident.

Forum users on the Big Brother fan site - Behind Big Brother seem to be split on the incident. Forum users said they thought the media had hyped the incident. "The way it was described in the papers I pictured Camilla really being pinned down and struggling with Ashley having his way with her. In reality it was much more light-hearted and foreshadowed before it occurred. If that happened to me I wouldn't class that as sexual assault, but maybe a little annoyed!" they said.

Another user said that the behaviour was unacceptable. "I've seen it and I still think it is unacceptable behaviour. I don't care how much she was laughing before and after. Young girls need to know that that is not acceptable, they don't have to laugh along with it if their mates are doing it to them." they said.

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This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.