Commercial TV’s hard-won reputation as the bastion of television sexism has received a small dint. Government-funded SBS put its own sexist slur to air over the weekend. Interestingly, there has been no discernible outcry.

In the most recent episode of sports quiz show The Squiz, a question was asked about the appearance of a tennis player: “Which former tennis star was cruelly said to resemble Shrek’s Princess Fiona?” When the answer was determined as Kim Clijsters, guest panellist Jason Chong sneered, “She was a dog”.

Imagine for a moment that on Channel Nine’s The Footy Show either Sam Newman (AFL version) or Paul Vautin (NRL version) called Clijsters “a dog”. The outrage would have quite rightly matched that generated by Newman’s manhandling of the legendary Caroline Wilson mannequin.

The SBS program was pre-recorded at the Foxtel facility in North Ryde, and editing out the offensive remark would have caused no production difficulties. In the wake of the brouhaha over the not-ha-ha Chaser child cancer skit, one of the key questions was who within the ABC signed-off on the program’s content. The same question could be asked in the case of The Squiz.

Jane McMillan, SBS’s Manager Corporate Communications, said it was reviewed by “the Executive Producer and senior management in content as per normal procedure” before going to air. “The quiz show is rated M and a coarse language warning was broadcast before the program commenced,” Ms McMillan said. “The comment in question was part of a brief comedic exchange. There was banter by both panels, including objections to the remark.”

The SBS Codes of Practice states that, “SBS supports the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women”. The remark is a clear breach of that code but Ms McMillan said no complaints have been received. Does the public provide a free pass because it is SBS rather than the nasty commercial channels, or is it because the audience is so small?

The Squiz is made by an outside production house, Ambience Entertainment. The Executive Producer from Ambience is a Channel Nine alumnus, Steve Bibb. He did not provide a comment before Crikey’s deadline. Jason Chong was asked why he thought his comment was valid and whether he thought the producers should have chopped it out. His only response was an emailed non-response: “I haven’t seen the episode yet, but I have a copy of it, so I’ll watch it when I get a moment and get back to you.”

While the character of the woman being slurred is hardly relevant, it so happens that Clijsters is one of the better human beings in tennis, not a sport noted for its rounded or selfless individuals.

She has not only won the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) Player of the Year award but also the WTA Player Service Award, WTA Humanitarian Award, and is a six-time winner of the WTA Karen Krantzcke Sportsmanship Award (which no-one else has won more than twice). She is currently inspiring fans with a barnstorming comeback performance that has her into the semi-finals at the US Open, 19 months after giving birth to daughter Jada.