The bizarre rule that allows networks to use the word "f*cking" in PG shows

The word “f*ucking” was aired during an episode of The Simpsons on 7mate

Viewers generally assume a PG rated show is safe for tweens and teens to watch, but a loophole means your kids can be exposed to extreme language and violence.

On Wednesday night during an episode of The Simpsons on 7mate twitter user Mr TV Australia saw an ad for the new movie Good Boys. The ad showed a child saying the words “f*cking child”.

He immediately reached out to me on twitter, saying;

Did Seven just breach the ACMA code? A “restricted” TV spot (known as “red band” in the US) just broadcast on 7mate... During a “PG” classified episode of The Simpsons. Words used during the ad “fuck”, “penis” and “dick”

TV Blackbox obtained a copy of the segment and verified the offending language had indeed been shown at 8.49pm during the episode which was has a PG classification.

To my mind this signalled a breach of the ACMA code.

The twitter user explained his concerns, stating;

“(I) Often watch these Simpsons re-runs with my young cousins (early-mid Primary ages) and I would be absolutely offended if this language (also crude/sexual) was heard by them.”

We reached out to Seven for comment on the alleged breach, to which a network spokesperson told us;

“The spot for Good Boys, shown at 8.49 pm, was classified M (Mature) by ClearAds, the independent body responsible for classifying commercials that air on television in Australia. The episode of The Simpsons that the spot was shown in commenced on 7mate at 8.31.00 pm. As such, the spot was broadcast in accordance with the Code requirements under section 2.4, which permits M classified content in commercials.”

The moment the word “f*cking” was said in the commercial for Good Boys which screened during The Simpsons

And it turns out they are right. After approaching ACMA for clarification on the issue (to be honest after 25 years in the television industry I was absolutely sure this was a code breach), a rep for ACMA sent me this;

Under the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice 2015 (revised 2018) (the Code), all programs and non-program material must be classified and broadcast in accordance with the relevant classification zone. The general rule, therefore, is that non-program material must be suitable for the classification zone in which it is broadcast, regardless of the classification of the program.

There are, however, special care requirements that restrict what can be broadcast at certain times or during certain types of programs (see 2.4 of the Code).

For example, the special care requirement at 2.4.1 of the Code requires all non-program material that is broadcast during a G or PG program between 7.30pm and 8.30pm to be no higher than a PG classification. The special care requirement at 2.4.1 does not apply after 8.30pm.

Now, if I’ve cut through the double-speak correctly, what this is telling me is the network’s only have to respect the PG classification between 7.30pm - 8.30pm. After that higher classified material can be shown in advertisements regardless of the PG classification.

What a joke.

As parents, we make choices every day on what our children can and can’t watch. We use the classification system as a way of understanding what kind of material might be in a program. The very idea that the word “f*cking” can be used during an episode of The Simpsons beggars belief.

Is it beyond reasonable doubt that a 13 year old might still be watching The Simpsons at 8.50pm?

How can we trust the classification system if higher rated content is shown within the programs we let our kids watch?

The amount of swearing penetrating so-called “family” shows has already increased, in my opinion, beyond acceptable limits. In the premiere episode of Australia’s Got Talent judge Nicole Scherzinger used the term “sh*t my pants” and we have seen terms like “d*ckhead” used casually in PG rated reality shows.

As a parent, this is not the language I want my kids to hear.

Many who know me might think this is a hypocritical stance considering I have been known to let fly with bad language (just listen to my podcasts for an example of that), but we are talking the choices parents make for their kids. Parents should be able to make informed choices, but this loophole takes away any control from the parent.

To be honest, this is why I feel much safer letting my children watch streaming services and youtube. At least I know what kind of content they are watching without suddenly being bombarded with a commercial with the word “f*cking” in it.

Our classification code is a joke… but it’s no laughing matter.