Prudence or Prudish – is Queensland about to set the agenda for the nation?

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OMA CEO Charmaine Moldrich – Speaks OUT

There has been much consternation about the Queer Film Festival poster in Queensland. The poster pays homage to the Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster film still From Here to Eternity, which caused controversy in 1953 for the sexy beach scene. The censors wanted the scene taken out, Columbia Pictures refused and the rest is history. It went on to be nominated for 13 Academy Awards and won nine. It also won critical and public acclaim and was the top grossing film that year.

It is difficult to imagine that this image could still cause controversy, be it portraying a same sex couple or a heterosexual couple.

But this week the original image (above left) was swapped for the less controversial image (above right). The question to be asked is are we self-censoring or just being prudent? The new image still respects the intent of the Queer Film Festival but maybe without the excitement of the Kerr/Lancaster embrace in the surf. The replacement poster, some may say, loses the sense of irony and surprise that you get from taking such a well-known image and turning it on its head.

But we live in interesting times, where, especially in Outdoor we have to take a broad section of views into consideration due of our strengths: our ability to broadcast 24/7, the massive audiences we reach, and the sheer size, breadth and depth of our signs all of which makes us highly visible in the public landscape.

And this visibility is creating some issues for us, in the last three years we have faced three parliamentary reviews that have investigated the content we broadcast. The latest review, held by the Queensland Government, brought down its findings in January.

The report tabled in the Queensland Parliament last week, was very balanced and acknowledged that much of the consternation about outdoor advertising was based on perception and individual values rather than evidence. The report also found that the current regulatory system is working, in all but one case, in Queensland. It also found that, after much searching, there was no evidence of sexually explicit outdoor advertising in the state.

Despite these findings the report makes eight recommendations to the Queensland Government, including introducing legislation to regulate outdoor advertising. The report also called for a range of further controls on outdoor advertising to be introduced by the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA), the Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB) and the Outdoor Media Association (OMA).

The fact that the Committee ignored its own findings and chose to recommend regulating the industry without evidence to back its recommendations, is somewhat baffling. The proposed recommendations will not only lead to an increase in red tape for an already highly regulated industry, but its impact could extend to some national and international advertising campaigns not being posted in Queensland. In other words we may have two sets of rules – one for Queensland and one for the rest of the country.

Needless to say, the OMA will continue to work with the Queensland government to limit the impact of the recommendations on the industry.

It is the triumph of individual perception over evidence which, I believe, is being hijacked by a vocal minority. Until the majority speaks up and counters such views we will re-visit the morality and the mores of a time we thought was long past.