The proposed inquiry into swearing on Australian television looks like being a fizzer, with a predictable range of submissions among the 63 sent.

Free TV Australia (the free to air lobby group) and SBS were the only television networks to make a submission and theirs were of the usual “don’t do anything, no change is needed and we take things seriously”, variety.

The most interesting submission came from a Professor of Law at the University of Technology Sydney, Lesley Hitchens, who actually took the inquiry seriously in so far as one of its terms of reference was concerned:

It is unfortunate that this inquiry has chosen to concentrate on the relatively trivial matter of coarse language, when there are much more significant issues at stake with regard to how the media in Australia serve the public interest.

Hitchens made the very valid point that the complaints process for TV and radio was not independent and transparent, unlike Australian advertisers who have established a process that is independent to handle complaints about them. She says there is no transparency on how the complaints are processed and handled, and you have the situation of the complaint being first handled by the organisation being complained about: the TV and radio station.

The inquiry should look at a wholesale revamp of the complaints system and Hitchens’ submission is a good place to start.

Why should people, in the age of email and the internet, be required to write a letter detailing their complaints to the TV network and then the Australian Communications and Media Authority?

The TV networks have established elaborate online mechanisms to handle video, images captured on mobile phones and other tips from members of the public — and advertise it extensively every day.

Why can’t ACMA force them to do they same for complaints?