ACMA rules 6:30 with George Negus in Code breach

A 2011 episode of 6:30 with George Negus has breached the Industry Code of Practice for inaccurate statements and for failing to respond to a complainant.

The story in October 2011 suggested that possible Sri Lankan war criminals were living in Australia.

Hugh Riminton reported that “The United Nations believes 40,000 civilians were killed and both government troops and the Tamil Tigers committed war crimes.”

The story included an interview with a former Sri Lankan Government soldier and footage from the documentary, Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields, which was produced by Channel 4 in Britain.

But media watchdog the Australian Communications and Media Authority ruled that the number was inaccurate and was likely to offend or mislead viewers.

In its submission, TEN acknowledged that it may have been more appropriate to qualify the 40,000 figure with expressions like “as many as” or “up to” and claimed it was peripheral or incidental to the story.

But ACMA disagreed, saying that TEN created the context for calls for an investigation into alleged Sri Lankan war criminals living in Australia.

TEN also was in breach for not responding to the complainant.

TEN apologised, explaining that the complaint was passed on to a program staff member who left TEN News after the Negus show was cancelled.

20 Comments:

  1. @Tex – I do my research. In this case at un.org – the full report complete with blacked out sections. I was not quoting opinions, but facts. Anyway, the “40,000” is still only a guestimate of the number of civilians killed in 20 years of war.

  2. This is most definitely my final comment in this thread (you’ll be glad to hear that David!)

    @Kenny, just to reinforce what I’ve said about getting info from actual sources & not opinion or 3rd-party reports, I found a copy of the Petrie Report (it’s everywhere online) & searched it.

    It doesn’t categorically state “40,000”, but in fact says “The Panel of Experts stated that ‘[a] number of credible sources have estimated that there could have been as many as 40,000 civilian deaths’.”

    Beware of opinions – even ones you agree with – and news reports masquerading as “facts”. That’s what started the whole damn sequence of complaints to 10 & ACMA in the first place!

  3. Nope, absolutely no relationship to ACMA at all except as an interested bystander and often critic.

    (OK, I lied – I once bought a CB licence off one of their predecessors. About 6 months later they made 27MHz unlicenced…)

    Look, ACMA sucks; in matters of TV content it’s everything I quoted myself as saying in the previous comment. But, y’know, when it’s so easy to find the actual report on ACMA’s website (under “News & Media Centre” – “All Latest News”), there’s no reason for not tempering your opinions with facts or converting questions into answers…

  4. (Last one, I promise!)

    David, for these types of stories, any chance you could provide a link to the actual report (where available)?

    Qubec: “The American equivalent, the FCC, maybe be overzealous, but at least they’re timely and actually do something!”

    FWIW, from what I can find on the FCC website, they’re less timely – often taking 2 years or more – only intervene after numerous viewer complaints, & don’t actually do that much. Even the infamous Super Bowl ‘nipplegate’ investigation took 6 months, and resulted in “a monetary forfeiture in
    the aggregate amount of Five Hundred Fifty Thousand Dollars ($550,000.00), which represents the statutory maximum of $27,500 for each Viacom Station that broadcast the material”.

    In other words, a slap amounting to 8 seconds of ad time in the same broadcast…

  5. @GG…11.42 am
    @ Tex 11.10 am
    If what you think is correct Tex may confirm or deny?

    But I am of two minds, the first being I doubt Tex does work for ACMA given the “speed”of his reply?

    The second being, if confirmed Tex has an association with ACMA( but I doubt if we ever actually know), and again given the speed of his reply, this could easily explain such delays when suppossidly on the Offensive(investigating and actually acting on their charter, prior to receiving complaints).

    And while they are waiting for the dentures the to be passed around, perhaps theirs days are spent being defensive, as threy troll pages like these, and do exactly as Tex has done, and protect their own backsides, instead of quickly kicking the backsides who rightly deserve a good boot up the B…….

  6. GG, you need to hone your Googling skills! Unless you think my previous comments here, where I call ACMA an “arthritic gasping toothless tiger”, lacking the “political or popular balls” to use its power, that “rubberstamps” whatever rules the networks want, & can only “threaten to slap them on the wrist ‘next time …’ when they break them” mean I’m defending ACMA.

    But in this case my comment was based on reading the actual report, not just a dislike of “public servants … shuffling pieces of paper around the ACMA office”

  7. “Channel Ten, we find that more than a year ago you did a bad thing… Naughty, naughty!”
    I honestly don’t understand why we need ACMA if they’re going to take so long to resolve a complaint and then provide absolutely no reprimand. The American equivalent, the FCC, maybe be overzealous, but at least they’re timely and actually do something! The networks must laugh whenever they receive an ACMA letter. As it stands, Media Watch do a far better and timely job at putting the networks in line. I imagine the networks are more scared of an email from Media Watch than ACMA

  8. Did ACMA wait for the UN Report released last week? “The report has been prepared by an internal review panel of the Secretary General (SG) Ban Ki Moon. Such a review had been suggested by a panel of experts, which had estimated that 40,000 people had died during the final phase of the war..”
    “40,000…during the final phase of the war”. No “up to”. TEN reported the figure factually 13 months before the UN report was released. ACMA, UN, oh dear, how the wheels turn slowly in these bureauracies. But TEN was accurate in its reporting.

  9. After reading this I now understand why ACA and TT never go near serious subjects like this and concentrate on things like diets and internet shopping.

    I think George and Ten now understand why the program failed and why we won’t see anymore serious current affairs and analysis on commercial TV.

  10. Nell, GG – To be fair to ACMA, the complaint wasn’t lodged with them until January 20 2012, and was finalised on August 12. The result wasn’t released publicly until November 12, and it’s taken another week or so to appear here. That explains almost half the delay.

    7 months for a complex complaint, with (according to the actual ACMA report) some back-and-forth between the ACMA & the broadcaster, doesn’t sound too bad to me.

    Advoc8: all your questions are answered in the ACMA report, available on their website.

  11. Question: Just how many public servants have been shuffling pieces of paper around the ACMA office for how long to come to this conclusion?

    Answer: Way, way too many.

  12. “the complaint was passed on to a program staff member who left TEN News”. – Oh one has to wonder how many more of these have been consigned to the bin over the last weeks by departing staff. TEN’s claim that the number was “periiferal” or “incidental” is right. No matter the number, it did happen, to a lot of innocent people. Something TT and ACA would never cover.
    Took over a year to investigate. “up to” – the most overused word. Meaningless. Is it 5, 10 or 40,000? Sounds like a Harvey Norman “up to 50% off”.

  13. This ruling from ACMA may give us the impression that ACMA can bite, and does indeed have Teeth?

    Unfortunately ACMA’s ruling, just confirms to me that they can seem to bite, but only when they have their dentures in.

    “ACMA ruled that the number was inacurate and was likely to offend or mislead some viewers”

    Not singling out network Ten, but I ask ACMA what about the “Bolt Report” and “Paul Henry” just to cite two glaring examples?. What about across all networks with nearly all political claims and counterclaims, and does ACMA have any control over misleading/inacurate avertising?( Water Tanks, Roof Insulation and Solar Panel Industries and associated rebate pricing?)

    Was ACMA being Proactive(on their own initiative) or Reactive in regards to this one particular program?, and who has confirmed the 40,000 is inacurate, where is ACMA’s undisputed proof that the 40,000 is inacurate, after all if ACMA can not prove the 40,000 is wrong , or even worse does this mean it can be actually more than 40,000? if ACMA can not provide Hard Factual Proof of this 40,000 is not at least that figure, are they just as guilty for the same reasons of unproven inacuracies?

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