The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has found the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) breached broadcasting rules by misrepresenting risks associated with the findings of the Office of the Conservation Regulator (OCR) in Victoria during three radio broadcasts in April 2021.
Statements in each of the broadcasts conveyed that the OCR had found logging breaches by VicForests had put Melbourne’s drinking water at risk. The ACMA found that these statements by the ABC did not accurately reflect the OCR’s published statements.
The breaches occurred during broadcasts of ABC NewsRadio Breakfast, ABC Radio Melbourne Mornings and a news update on ABC Radio National.
An ACMA investigation found no evidence that the OCR had found such risks associated with the logging breaches. As a result, the ABC broadcasts breached accuracy requirements and misrepresented the perspective of the OCR in attributing these findings to the regulatory body.
ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin said the facts presented in the ABC’s reports did not meet the standards set out in its own code of practice.
“When we assessed the factual material presented in the ABC news reports we found they did not meet the standards expected of it as a public broadcaster,” Ms O’Loughlin said.
“The assertion that the OCR had found a significant risk to Melbourne’s drinking supply exaggerated the impact and seriousness of the breaches found by the OCR. This could have raised considerable concerns for the ABC’s audiences about such a critical issue as water quality.
“The ABC attributed a perspective to the OCR that was not present in their published findings and in this regard has let down its audience.”
As a result of the ACMA’s finding, the ABC will issue a clarification on its website, circulate the ACMA investigation amongst relevant staff and include the findings in future staff training.