Underbelly: articles

Graphic scenes in TV's Underbelly spark investigation

A "HIT" has been ordered on the Nine Network, with a watchdog to investigate whether Underbelly has breached classification guidelines.

However it's possible the broadcaster will beat the rap, with the investigation not likely to be completed until after the gritty gangland series has finished screening.

Christian group Festival of Light Australia says the screening of Underbelly, which traces the 1995-2004 gangland war between some of Melbourne's most notorious criminals, has breached industry code of practice classification guidelines on five separate occasions.

The group wants the show reclassified, saying there have been numerous occasions when scenes involving strong coarse language, drug use and nudity have been aired at an inappropriate time.

"I'm concerned that Channel Nine is really pushing the envelope, pushing the boundaries of what's acceptable at what time on TV," Festival of Light national research officer Roslyn Phillips said.

"It seems to me as if they wanted the 8.30pm time because a lot more people are watching then ... but, of course, those numbers are swelled by young teenage children."

She said parents were lulled into a false sense of security because of Underbelly's M rating, and she wanted it reclassified.

"It's quite clear if you read the guidelines that the sorts of things included in some of the scenes should be MA or AV.

"And if there are any scenes that are AV, and quite a few of the episodes do contain AV scenes, then ... it should be shown after 9.30pm."

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has confirmed the broadcaster is being investigated, but warns this may take several months.

The 13-part mini-series began screening on February 13 in all states and territories except Victoria, meaning the show is likely to be off the air before ACMA has completed its investigation.

"It's not only a case of the horse has bolted, but really nothing happens," Ms Phillips said.

"It means the guidelines don't mean anything anymore ... we've got to have a much better complaints system."

By Karlis Salna
April 16, 2008