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Oz Big Brother outrage prompts law change

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Australia is to change its broadcasting laws to encompass webcasts in reaction to general outrage over an alleged sexual assault on the show which was "streamed online and not shown on television", the BBC reports.

Two men were recently ejected from the Oz BB house "after a female contestant claimed a man held her down while another rubbed his crotch in her face". The incident prompted Australian PM John Howard to demand the show be taken off the air, and communications minister Helen Coonan later referred the matter Oz's TV watchdog - the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

ACMA, however, said no rules had been broken, because "the images were seen only by adult subscribers who had paid to see a feed of the activities in the Big Brother house".

Coonan stated: "Given the community outrage about this matter, it would appear the codes applying to television programme classifications may also be out of step with community standards." She added that the webcast loophole would be removed.

Read Coonan's whole statement here.

There was some confusion over whether the Big Brother incident was a sexual assault, or as Coonan had it, a "sexual impropriety" involving the "humiliation of women", or just a bunch of kids having a laugh.

The young woman involved has not pressed charges and appeared in Australian reports to have seen the whole thing as a bit of a lark.

The two chaps at the centre of the scandal, meanwhile, have protested their innocence in an interview on the Big Brother website. The contestant known as "John" said: "It was just a bit of a joke, intended only as a joke. We invited Camilla over into our bed. She actually asked if we could let her in. There was a lot of laughing going on. There was never any concern by her showed at all. It was completely a joke and in my opinion it was taken as a joke by Camilla.

"If she was by any chance offended by anything that happened, I didn't see it at the time and if I have at all offended her I'm completely sorry. It was purely just a practical joke that was deemed not acceptable by Big Brother and as a result we had to be evicted from the House."

Readers can judge for themselves as to how much of a joke the incident may or may not have been down at YouTube (adult content, so registration required). ®

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