WIN TV breaches code's identification requirements | ACMA

WIN TV breaches code's identification requirements

WIN Television Vic Pty Ltd breached the Commercial TV Industry Code of Practice (the code) by indirectly identifying the victim of a fatal car accident before authorities notified the immediate family of the victim.

In a segment on a Nine News Update aired 23 August 2014, footage was briefly visible of part of a number plate of one of the cars involved in the accident. An ACMA investigation found that the visible part of the number plate, combined with the vehicle’s specific make and colour, was distinctive enough to be recognisable to immediate family members.

Clause 4.3.8 of the code provides that ‘in broadcasting news and current affairs programs, licensees must take all reasonable steps to ensure that murder or accident victims are not identified directly or, where practicable, indirectly before their immediate families are notified by the authorities’.

‘The complainant asserted that they were able to identify the victim, their mother-in-law, based on the image of the partial number plate shown in the broadcast,’ said ACMA Chairman, Chris Chapman. ‘This was a crucial factor in the ACMA finding a breach.’

As a result of the breach, the licensee has undertaken to:

  • ensure its news team is aware of the result of the investigation and the ACMA’s reasoning
  • provide further training to its news teams on how to better handle these types of matters in future, and to include this investigation in its code training materials.

The licensee has also advised that it has apologised to the family concerned.

The investigation report is available here.

For more information please see Backgrounder below or to arrange an interview, contact: Emma Rossi, Media Manager, (02) 9334 7719 and 0434 652 063 or media@acma.gov.au.

Media release 16/2015 - 9 April

Backgrounder

Relevant code provision

Clause 4.3.8 of the code provides that ‘in broadcasting news and current affairs programs, licensees must take all reasonable steps to ensure that murder or accident victims are not identified directly or, where practicable, indirectly before their immediate families are notified by the authorities’.

In this case, the ACMA considered that, on balance, the footage was sufficient to identify the accident victim as:

part of the number plate was visible (albeit fleetingly) in the footage (as the licensee conceded)

  • while a viewer unknown to the victim would not be able to identify the victim based on the footage as broadcast, showing at least three digits of the number plate, in combination with the specific make and colour of the vehicle, was distinctive enough to make the vehicle recognisable to immediate family members
  • the complainant and her husband immediately recognised the number plate and, by association, the vehicle, as belonging to their mother-in-law/mother respectively.
  • The accident victim was therefore indirectly identified in this case.

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.

ACMA investigations

The ACMA may:

  • investigate complaints received about compliance by a licensee with the BSA or licence conditions
  • investigate complaints about compliance with code obligations, where the complainant has complained to the licensee and is dissatisfied with its response
  • commence an 'own motion' investigation into compliance by a licensee 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).
 

Last updated: 09 April 2015