The Australian Communications and Media Authority has found that Network Ten (Sydney) Pty Limited, licensee of Channel Ten, breached accuracy and privacy provisions under the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice 2010 (the Code) during a segment aired on Ten Eyewitness News on 15 April this year.
The ACMA investigated a complaint about a news report concerning the bashing of an elderly woman, which focused on a police request to men living in the neighbouring area to voluntarily provide DNA samples.The report included visual images of the complainant accompanied by commentary that he had chosen not to provide a DNA sample. It could have been inferred that he was a suspect in the assault.
Channel Ten acknowledged that the report incorrectly represented that the complainant had declined to provide a DNA sample to police. Accordingly, factual material was not broadcast accurately as required by clause 4.3.1 of the Code.
The ACMA also found that Channel Ten breached the privacy obligations at clause 4.3.5 of the Code.
While the complainant was not named, he was identifiable from the broadcast. In the context of a report on the investigation into a violent bashing, information that he had not given a DNA sample was sensitive personal information. It was not available in the public domain and consent wasn’t given for it to be broadcast. The visual identification of the complainant could have been avoided without the segment losing any coherence or meaning. There was no public interest reason which justified the broadcast of personal information that was both sensitive and inaccurate.
Channel Ten will publish an apology and correction on its program website, TENplay and include a link to the report from the ACMA’s website. It will also use the ACMA’s findings in training sessions and redistribute the ACMA’s Privacy guidelines for broadcasters to news staff.
For more information see Backgrounder below or contact: Emma Rossi, on (02) 9334 7719, 0434 652 063 or email@example.com.
Media release 49/2015 - 30 September
Relevant code provision - accuracy
Clause 4.3.1 of the Code provides that, in broadcasting news and current affairs programs, ‘licensees must broadcast factual material accurately and represent viewpoints fairly, having regard to the circumstances at the time of preparing and broadcasting the program’. Sub clause 188.8.131.52 also provides that ‘an assessment of whether the factual material is accurate is to be determined in the context of the segment in its entirety’.
In this case the broadcaster acknowledged a breach of the requirement to broadcast factual material accurately.
Relevant code provision – privacy
Under clause 4.3.5 of the Code, in broadcasting news and current affairs programs, licensees must not use material relating to a person’s personal or private affairs, or which invades an individual’s privacy, other than where there is an identifiable public interest reason for the material to be broadcast.
The ACMA’s Privacy guidelines for broadcasters 2011 provide guidance to broadcasters on the ACMA’s approach to the privacy obligations at clause 4.3.5.
The ACMA found that information about the complainant giving a DNA sample to police was sensitive personal information.
The regulatory framework: broadcasting content regulation
Under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (BSA), Australian radio and television licensees have primary responsibility for ensuring that the material they broadcast reflects community standards. Many aspects of program content are governed by codes of practice developed by industry groups representing the various Australian broadcasting sectors. The ACMA registers codes (other than those of the national broadcasters, the ABC and SBS) once it is satisfied that broadcasters have undertaken public consultation and the codes contain appropriate community safeguards.
The ACMA may investigate in the public interest:
- following a complaint about compliance with the BSA or licence conditions;
- following a complaint about compliance with code obligations, where the complainant has complained to the licensee and is dissatisfied with its response;
- or on its 'own motion' into compliance with the BSA, licence conditions or code obligations.
Additional information about, and copies of, the ACMA’s published broadcasting investigations reports are available here.
Responding to breaches
Where there has been a breach of a code of practice, the ACMA may:
- agree to accept measures offered by the broadcaster to improve compliance (these measures can include educating staff or changing procedures to improve compliance with the rule(s))
- agree to accept an enforceable undertaking offered by the broadcaster for the purpose of securing future compliance with the rule(s)
- impose an additional licence condition.
The ACMA cannot ‘fine’ or ‘prosecute’ a broadcaster for breaching a code, or direct it to do any particular thing (such as broadcast a report of the ACMA’s findings).
In this case the ACMA has accepted the broadcaster’s offer to:
- publish a correction on the TENplay website for a period of 3 weeks
- remove the broadcast from its website
- include a link to the final investigation report on the ACMA’s website
- distribute the ACMA’s findings to TEN news staff
- use the ACMA’s findings as an example in future Code training sessions with staff to ensure compliance
- redistribute the ACMA’s Privacy guidelines for broadcasters to all news staff.