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Suicide insult on John Laws breaches radio code

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An Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) investigation has found The John Laws Morning Show breached the rules around decency and the treatment of suicide during a segment in March 2020.

On the show Mr Laws referred to a regular contributor as ‘mentally deficient’ and made the remark ‘for goodness sake, say something constructive, like you’re going to kill yourself.’

The investigation found Mr Laws’ comments breached the Commercial Radio Code of Practice 2017.

Under the code broadcasters are required to take care around references to suicide and not depict suicide favourably or present it as a means of achieving a desired result.

“We expect licensees to take far more care in the content they broadcast around the very sensitive topic of suicide,” ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin said.

“The comments showed a lack of care about how they would impact the public. They trivialised what is a serious issue for Australians.”

The ACMA also found that the licensee, 2HD, breached the rules on complaints-handling, which require a broadcaster to use best endeavours to respond to a complaint in a substantive manner within 30 business days.

The complaint was lodged on 30 March 2020, but the complainant did not receive a substantive response until 29 June 2020.

“Complaints from the public are a key pillar of the co-regulatory complaints system,” Ms O’Loughlin said.

“We expect broadcasters to take a pragmatic approach, and where a person has lodged a complaint in good faith, to respond to them in a manner consistent with the Code rules.”

Following the finding, the licensee has reinforced with John Laws the role the code plays in protecting the community. It has also addressed its complaints-handling system and trained the staff who process complaints.

MR 06/2021

For more information, please contact ACMA Media on 0438 375 776 or media@acma.gov.au.

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