Private versus public | ACMA


08 March, 2013 04:05 PM


Private versus public

By Editor

Footage broadcast by Channel Nine Adelaide breached the privacy of a family, an ACMA investigation has found. The finding highlights the importance of the privacy provisions of the Television Industry Code of Practice 2010 and the new privacy guidelines we released in December 2011.

A man and his family were filmed in and around their house as part of a news story on a midwife broadcast on 16 February 2012. While the broadcast referred her as to a 'de-registered midwife', the midwife in question has advised the ACMA that she was not de-registered but terminated her registration herself in January 2010.. Although there was some public interest in the midwife's activities, this could have been reported without using intrusive details about the family.

The licensee breached the code because the camera was used to pry into the family's home. In other footage, even though the older children's faces were pixilated, the family could be identified through shots of the father and the house, and the naming of their suburb. The father had not consented to the broadcast and the personal information disclosed was not already in the public domain.

By reporting sensitive information about a child, the licensee also failed to exercise special care in using material relating to the baby's privacy.

The licensee has agreed to undertake a training program and make a statement on its website that links to the ACMA's findings.

In considering broadcasting privacy complaints, we apply the privacy provisions of the relevant codes of practice. To help stakeholders adhere to the codes, in December 2011 we reviewed and updated our Privacy guidelines for broadcasters, which outline how we approach privacy code provisions.

The provisions protect against the broadcast of material:

  • about a person's personal or private affairs-for example, by disclosing personal health information
  • that invades an individual's privacy-for example, by intruding on their seclusion. 'Seclusion' covers private places and, depending on the circumstances, public places-wherever people could expect to not be observed by others and where a reasonable person would find the broadcast offensive.

We see privacy as an 'enduring concept'. It will remain important to people regardless of how the content is published-through broadcasting (whether subscription, national or commercial), online or in telecommunications.

The ACMA will investigate broadcasting code complaints that have not been resolved by the broadcaster. When investigating broadcasting privacy complaints, we ask:

  • Was a person identifiable from the broadcast?
  • Did the broadcast disclose personal information or intrude upon the person's seclusion in more than a fleeting way?

If the answer to these questions is 'yes', then we will consider:

  • Was consent obtained?
  • Was the material readily available from the public domain?
  • Was the invasion of privacy in the public interest?

If the answer to any of these is 'yes', it's likely that there will be no breach.

You can learn more about the complaints process here and find out more about privacy here.