A controversial Chaser sketch depicting a News Corp columnist having sex with a dog didn’t breach the ABC’s editorial policies, the ABC’s complaints department has found.

The ABC will today notify almost 200 complainants that the photo-shopped image of Australian columnist Chris Kenny having sex with a dog would have offended many viewers but was legitimate satire. Kenny, a former Coalition staffer, is a strident ABC critic.

The Hamster Decides sketch has been heavily criticised by Kenny, News Corp columnists such as Andrew Bolt, the ABC’s Media Watch program and, for the first time today, ABC managing director Mark Scott. In his first interview since the federal election, Scott told ABC 774 Melbourne he thought the sketch was “pretty full-on and tasteless and undergraduate”.

“Personally, I didn’t like it,” Scott said. “I can understand Chris Kenny and his family being upset by it and I am sorry about that.”

But the ABC’s Audience & Consumer Affairs division has dismissed complaints about the segment.

“A&CA’s assessment is that the skit was likely to offend but the segment was justified by the editorial context,” ABC spokesman Michael Millett told Crikey. “While strong in nature it was consistent with the Chaser style — one very familiar to its target audience. This was confirmed by the fact that only one complaint was received in the 36 hours after broadcast.

“The other complaints — less than 200 in total — came after the issue was pursued by various newspaper columnists. It was strong satire related to Mr Kenny’s criticism of the ABC. In line with the Editorial Policies related to harm and offence, viewers were adequately warned by an onscreen classification symbol and accompanying voice over of the likelihood of seeing potentially offensive content.”

Last month, ABC Media Watch host Paul Barry said: “No doubt the Chaser team’s defence is that it’s satire. But I can see nothing satirical or clever in the suggestion that Kenny — who is one of the ABC’s noisiest critics — has sex with animals.”

Peter Fray

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