However the public broadcaster has always maintained it was within its rights to air the skit. On Friday, the Australian Communications and Media Authority sided with the ABC.
While the watchdog found the segment was likely to offend given the word “c—” was said six times, it said it was important to consider that the language was part of a crude joke.
“The offence in the segment was moderated by the nature of the program which is a satirical comedy,” ACMA ruled.
“The humour is often blunt, crude and sarcastic. The offensive language used in the segment was partially moderated by its scripted, comedic nature. Tom Ballard’s repeated interjections and comedic attempts to end the conversation highlighted the unacceptable nature of Greg Larsen’s suggestions.”
However, ACMA did suggest Tonightly might not get away with future skits if it continues to target individuals with offensive language.
“There are limits to the licence granted by comedic context,” the watchdog ruled. “This sketch came close to those limits by singling out an individual in an offensive way.”
An ABC spokeswoman declined to comment, arguing the ACMA ruling spoke for itself. But in its ACMA submissions, the public broadcaster said the word “c—” was unlikely to offend Tonightly viewers.
“A dedicated comedy audience, watching a fresh and edgy program targeted at younger adults is more likely to accept and be relatively unoffended by the word ‘c—‘ in a sketch of this nature,” the ABC said.