It was a series of vulgar text messages from Peter Slipper — including one comparing  female genitalia to shell-less mussels — that eventually forced him out of the speaker’s chair.

Yet Crikey suspects many media consumers, especially those who rely on the broadcast media for news, would be utterly confused about exactly why the speaker has resigned. The mussels remark, first reported by The Australian Financial Review last Thursday, dominated parliament yesterday and is repeated in print today by The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian.

The TV networks, however, have been far less forthcoming. In Channel Nine’s lead story 6pm news story last night, press gallery veteran Laurie Oakes said the remarks were “too disgusting for broadcast”. ABC political correspondent Mark Simkin, whose 7pm report was accompanied by a blurred graphic of a text message, also gave the remarks a wide berth.

As a rule, ABC online has referred only to Slipper’s “offensive language to describe female genitalia”. Lateline, which airs at at 10.30pm, also made no mention of the “m word” last night — even though host Emma Alberici conducted a 15-minute interview with Labor frontbencher Tanya Plibersek about the messages.

We’d be interested to know what Crikey readers think.

Do ABC viewers have a right to know what Slipper said in his texts and why he was forced from his post? Or are the remarks simply too unpalatable to broadcast? Have you heard the remarks repeated on radio or TV? We’ll follow up the issue tomorrow. 

Peter Fray

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