The Chaser

The Chaser is an Australian group, most famous for their programmes on Australian Broadcasting Corporation.Team members include Julian Morrow, Dominic Knight, Charles Firth, Craig Reucassel, Chas Licciardello, Chris Taylorand Andrew Hansen.

Items of the Chaser

Newspaper

The newspaper was The Chaser team's first enterprise, which was set up in 1999.The Chaser have released five annuals based on The Chaser newspaper:
  • The Chaser Annual 2000: The Little-Read Book
  • The Chaser Annual 2001: Bradman, The Cremated Years
  • The Chaser Annual 2002: The War on Error
  • Embedded with The Chaser: Annual 2003
  • The Chaser Annual 2004: Intelligence Failures

Television and Radio

After two years of their satirical newspaper, the Chaser had attracted the attention of Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). ABC thought that "The Chaser got the talent, the work ethic, the fearlessness, the desire”. The premiere on the ABC was The Election Chaser that was based on the 2001 Australian federal election. The CNNNN (Chaser Nonstop News Network), and The War on Everything are all the famous channels of the Chaser.

Freedom of Speech and media presenters


Julian Morrow and the Chaser team presented “The Make A Realistic Wish Foundation” skit in 2009 and drew criticism for using the right to freedom of speech to satirise an organisation that raises money for young, terminally ill children. “The skit signed off with the line: ‘Why go to any trouble when they’re going to die anyway?’” (http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/09/06/2025817.htm)

The Chaser team have stated that their aim is always to provoke debate through ‘free speech’. However, the reaction to the skit was totally negative and even the Prime Minister commented, saying that the team “…should hang their heads in shame…having a go at kids with a terminal illness is really beyond the pale…” (http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/09/06/2025817.htm) The question could be asked: Who’s there for the kids? Who asked any of the terminally ill children what they thought before the skit went to air? What responsibilities do we have when we call on ‘freedom of speech’ to explain behaviour and comments that can potentially hurt children?

Forced to apologise to the parents and dying children and the Make a Wish Foundation Kim Dalton, the Director of ABC television and Julian Morrow the show's Executive Producer came out after the episode's airing to explain; “The ABC and The Chaser did not intent to hurt those who have been affected by the terminal illness of a child. We acknowledge the distress this segment has caused and we apologise to anyone we have upset” (The Daily Telegraph, 04/06/09)

On the other hand the Chaser's apology was criticised for its lack of sincerity in offering more explanations than apologises; “The Chaser's War on Everything is a satirical program aimed at provoking debate and providing social commentary on topical issues, current affairs and public life in general” (Howell, 04/01/09)

A representative for the Make a Wish Foundation, Janita Friend, told the Daily Telegraph that it has never presented itself as a charity for granting dying wishes. In fact, not all the children involved in the foundation's work were terminally ill. "Our mission is to grant wishes to children with life threatening medical conditions, not all of them pass away" (The Daily Telegraph, 04/06/09). As a result of the skit's airing, the foundation feels that families might now think twice before asking for help for their seriously ill children, believing that they may be signaling something that says “Now my child will pass away” (Howell, 04/01/09).

The skit, not even an original, was based on a similar clip on the satirical online Onion News Network that did not gather as much controversy. Hence, an argument that has been made here is that: was an Australian taxpayer-funded media outlet the right platform for this particular Chaser's skit? And given the show's MA classification, was it simply a matter of intended audience, as the Chaser's defenders argue that through the sketch, the Chaser's were not having a go at the kids involved but the fundraising industry itself instead.

The case highlights the fact that, while Australians demand the right to express themselves freely, there is a common sentiment that we, as a society, should be censored to some extent as far as what might be considered "offensive and obscene" behaviour goes. Thus, while there is some legal censorship in Australia, it is often down to individuals and communities to try and self-censor what they disagree with.

The case also represents a recent trend of reaction-based censorship. A kind of undercurrent mob rule that exists under a supposed 'fair go' culture. This was particularly highlighted by David Marr in a recent article: "When Australians are offended they want something done about it... We want disapproval made official. We want someone, somewhere, somehow to suffer because we're upset". Thus, prime minister Kevin Rudd has led the charge, simply parroting the most vocal conservative opinions of the state. Another example of his decrying of controversial material was with his comment on Henderson's art as "revolting".

The real issue at hand is thus deflected by political figures in this reaction against offensive material. In order for satire to work, it must on some level be potentially offensive to the target of its attack. Thus on principle, satire that offends is essentially a tautology, and therefore incapable of serious criticism. So there is nothing wrong with the Chaser to make such a skit so long as innocent sick children are not actually exposed to it, which they were. The material itself should not have been controversial, but its wide delivery definitely should.

Controversies Related with the Chaser


APEC Arrests


On 6th September, 2007, Jullian Morrow and Chas Licciardello, along with other crew members, attempted to breach the restricted zone of the Australia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Sydney (Braithwaite, 2007). Their means was to pose as a Canadian motorcade, with official looking cars with Canadian flags protruding from the bonnet. To the Chaser's own surprise, they were able to breach two checkpoints and proceed almost to the centre of the zone, and the hotel where George Bush Jnr. and many other foreign dignitaries were staying. It was Morrow and Licciardello's decision to give themselves up (by having Licciardello emerge from a car dressed as Osama Bin Laden) that ended the rouse. All were arrested (including the drivers who had been hired with the cars) and charged with "entering a restricted area without justification" - a new law that was established just prior to the APEC summit (Braithwaite, 2007). They were later cleared of the charges (Emerson, 2008).

According to statements from the Chaser team, they did not expect to gain entry to the checkpoints and had planned on having the Osama look-a-like emerge after the initial rejection. However, as they kept getting cleared they felt, at the time, that it would be a good idea to follow through. It was ultimately this that seemed to have saved the team, as the Department of Prosecutions dropped the charges on the grounds that the team had not had the intention of entering the restricted zone (Emerson, 2008). It is an interesting question as to whether the team should have been cleared of charges (after all, they did indeed enter the restricted zone in the end), and in turn to what extent the media in general should be allowed to "bend" the rules in order to report a story.

"Guide Dogs for the Blind and Munted"

The Chaser is under attack for airing a skit by reporting that guide dogs can lead drunken men home safely on 22 July, 2009. The main concern of those who complain is that dogs can be used to accommodate irresponsiblity and misbehavior. While others think that those who complain just watch the Chaser to find something wrong. As far as I am concerned, the skit can be seen as a satire on the inebriated who need the guide of dogs. Therefore, in the world that advocates freedom of speech, do not just blame.
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"Make a Realistic Wish Foundation"

Just as it is already mentioned in the above section, On 3 June, 2009, in the case of an ill sick kid, Chris Taylor stated at the Foundation that "Why go to any trouble, when they're only gonna die anyway." The sick kid joke caused the audience around the country changed the channel for they cannot bear to see the cruel attitudes toward kids. It would surely bring a mental scar on children. The Chaser needs to apologize for their behavior. Free speech is indeed necessary, but the social moral should also be taken into account.

The Eulogy Song"

On 17 October, 2007, Hansen wrote and sang a song that satirised the lives of a few deceased celebrities, revealing people with flaws are disappropriately exalted as "top blokes", which all show negative views . To be different and unique is attention attracting, the harmful effects imposed on the society is enormous. Who will be responsible for the hate speech? See more on Free Speech and Hate Speech.





Works Cited:


Emerson, D. & Ramachandran, A. (2008, April 28), Chaser's APEC stunt charged dropped, retrieved 12th October, 2009 from SMH: http://www.smh.com.au/news/tv--radio/chasers-apec-stunt-charges-dropped/2008/04/28/1209234710155.html
Braithwaite, D. (2007, September 6), Chaser Team Charged, retrieved 12th October, 2009 from SMH: http://www.smh.com.au/news/apec/chaser-busted-at-apec/2007/09/06/1188783378804.html
Braithwaite, D. (2007, September 7), Apec's surprise guest - Mr Bin Laden of Canada, retrieved 12th October, 2009 from SMH: http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/apecs-surprise-guest--mr-bin-laden-of-canada/2007/09/06/1188783415499.html
Howell, G. “Make-A Wish anger over Chaser's sick kids skit”, website: http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/06/04/2589089.htm, last updated: 04/01/09, accessed: 05/10/09.
Howell, G. “Chaser's pull sick kids skit”, website: http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/06/04/2589260.htm, last updated: 04/01/09, accessed: 05/10/09.
Marr, D. "Tyranny, the price paid for not giving offence" Sydney Morning Herald, 10/04/09.
The Chaser Annual 2007: The Other Secret. Text Publishing. ISBN 978-1-921351-08-2.
The Daily Telegraph “ABC, Chaser apologise over sick kid joke”, website: http://www.news.com.au/entertainment/story/0,28383,25584945-10229,00.html, last updated: 04/06/09, accessed: 05/10/09.
Vickery, C. "Make-A-Wish Foundation fury at Chaser sick children TV skit " website: http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/make-a-wish-foundation-fury-at-chaser-sick-children-tv-skit/story-e6freuy9-1225720753560 accessed: 13/10/09
http://www.chaser.com.au/
http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/09/06/2025817.htm