AN episode of the SBS comedy Fat Pizza in which a drug deal is filmed and a group of schoolchildren watch a character smoke what looks likes marijuana is under investigation by the broadcasting regulator.
The investigation by the Australian Communications and Media Authority of the episode, staged at Nimbin, coincides with John Howard's call for a crackdown on cannabis.
At a time when the linking of cannabis use to mental illness has triggered a campaign against the trend towards its decriminalisation, the episode, shot in May during the annual Nimbin Mardi Grass, shows the crew participating in a giant joint-rolling competition in the northern NSW town. The former voluntary drug counsellor who lodged the complaint with the ACMA, Jon Woodworth, said it was "a little ironic" that at a time when the Prime Minister was talking about lax attitudes towards drug use, public funds were being used to make a joke about it.
"I think that it's dangerous," he said yesterday.
Mr Woodworth said that a disclaimer, in which Fat Pizza creator and star Paul Fenech says, "I don't endorse any of these drugs", could not be taken seriously.
"The serious parts get mixed up with the comedy, and the program is targeted at young males who would get the impression that drug use is OK," Mr Woodworth said.
A spokesman for SBS said the corporation could not comment on the episode because it was under investigation, but a formal response would be delivered to the ACMA in the coming month.
In a letter to Mr Woodworth, SBS insisted Fenech "carefully distanced himself" from the activities in the episode. But Mr Woodworth said SBS had refused to sign a statutory declaration that no real drugs were smoked in the episode.
The head of Enough is Enough and a member of the NSW Government's Sentencing Council, Ken Marslew, was outraged by the episode. "They are making light of a product that is illegal and is damaging lives. Any kids that see this Fat Pizza mob get the impression it's OK to take drugs and it's not anywhere as bad as people make it out to be."