4 September 2018
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has found that Channel Seven Sydney breached the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice in a Sunrise ‘Hot Topics’ segment broadcast on 13 March 2018.
The ACMA found that the introduction to the segment claiming Indigenous children could ‘only be placed with relatives or other Indigenous families,’ was inaccurate and in breach of the Code. The licensee explained that this repeated a statement from a newspaper of the day. However, the ACMA considered that Seven should have taken steps to verify the accuracy of this claim before it was used as the foundation for a panel discussion.
The ACMA noted the follow-up 'Hot Topics' segment broadcast by Seven on 20 March 2018 was a more informed discussion in which a panellist accurately described the true position regarding placement of Indigenous children. However, the ACMA found that the follow-up segment did not correct the earlier error in an appropriate manner in the circumstances.
The ACMA investigation also found that the segment provoked serious contempt on the basis of race in breach of the Code as it contained strong negative generalisations about Indigenous people as a group. These included sweeping references to a ‘generation’ of young Indigenous children being abused. While it may not have been Seven’s intention, by implication the segment conveyed that children left in Indigenous families would be abused and neglected, in contrast to non-Indigenous families where they would be protected.
‘Broadcasters can, of course, discuss matters of public interest, including extremely sensitive topics such as child abuse in Indigenous communities. However, such matters should be discussed with care, with editorial framing to ensure compliance with the Code,’ said ACMA Chair, Nerida O’Loughlin.
‘The ACMA considers that the high threshold for this breach finding was met, given the strong negative generalisations about Indigenous people as a group,’ added Ms O’Loughlin.
The ACMA is in discussions with Channel Seven about its response to the breach findings. Channel Seven has indicated that it may seek judicial review of the ACMA’s decision.