American channel FX’s presence in the UK region (where they will be known as ‘Fox’ as of next year) has hit a negative note this week, after broadcast regulators Ofcom hit out at an episode of Fox’s Animation Domination series American Dad! for airing violent content and ‘sexual innuendo’ before the TV watershed of 9pm.
While Seth MacFarlane’s second-oldest current series usually stays away from the headlines in ‘controversy’ due the presence of more notable programmes such as Family Guy, South Park, and The Simpsons (despite airing similarly ‘controversial’ content), on this occasion they have come directly under fire, with Ofcom warning Fox International to implement ‘revised and robust’ schedule-checking procedures ‘as soon as possible’.
The announcement comes in response to an episode of the show aired on the satellite channel back in August at an 8:30pm start time, a season 5 episode called “Bully For Steve”, featuring lead character Stan Smith bullying his son Steve to teach him a lesson about facing challenges.
The main point of concern was said to be a ’13 second-long’ flashback scene in which Stan’s wife Francine recalls a time when she was in an underground fight club, and stabbed another girl after pulling the knife out of her shoulder from being stabbed herself. After defeating her opponent, Ofcom claim that Francine ‘then triumphantly taunted the dead girl’.
In addition, Ofcom noted three occasions of Stan making ‘sexual taunts’ to Steve in a running joke of the episode, as well as a ‘prolonged 90-second sequence’ seeing Steve get his revenge by hiring Stan’s high school bully to return and beat him up (which is notable for creating the semi-popular ‘Stelio Kontos’ meme since airing in 2010).
While the content itself is fairly standard for an animated comedy, Fox agreed that they had made a mistake in putting the episode out pre-watershed, claiming that they take exposure of such violence to younger viewers ‘very seriously’, and chalk the airing of the ’15-rated’ episode down to ‘human error’, and not being verified by their compliance teams.
Ofcom said of the content, which they claimed to be at even greater ‘risk’ to young audiences due to being aired on a Saturday evening: “Ofcom had concerns about the compliance procedures in place because material suitable for a post-watershed transmission only was scheduled for broadcast pre-watershed, even though [Fox] had already reviewed it previously and decided it should only be shown after 9pm. Compliance with the Code therefore relied on manual checks picking up inappropriate scheduling and – as in this case – such a compliance arrangement was clearly not satisfactory. Ofcom expects Fox International to complete its review of its compliance arrangements for scheduling and put in place revised and robust arrangements as soon as possible.”
Fox International now claim to be resolving the issue with a new automatic checking system combined with a temporary resolution of manually reviewing each episodes’ content in American Dad! to avoid a repeat issue, but where does the mistake rank in terms of animated comedy ‘crimes’ throughout history?
While there is no clip of the primary concern from Ofcom, a (poor quality) video of the ‘Stelio Kontos’ battle can be seen below: