It raised questions that we’ve all wondered about: why are punishments for breaches so light, and should they be given more powers?
As it currently stands, ACMA can’t fine broadcasters. It can’t compel them to publish its findings. It can suspend licences, but that’s an extreme step.
Host Paul Barry cited problems in keeping 2GB’s Alan Jones to an ACMA recommendation that his radio show maintain fact-checking, but his points also apply to television broadcasting:
So we’d like to see regulation made to work. And we have two suggestions.
First that the ACMA be given more power not to investigate.
It’s crazy to spend a year on trivial complaints. And it’s a waste of time for all concerned.
Second, that the watchdog be given some teeth. Allow the ACMA to force broadcasters to acknowledge and correct their mistakes.
And allow it to impose fines on serial offenders as the British regulator Ofcom is able to do.
Finally, it would help if 2GB took its responsibilities more seriously.
Six weeks ago Channel Nine’s A Current Affair was found to have breached the TV code with a story that a shopping mall in Sydney had been overtaken by Asians.
ACMA recommended it acknowledge that breach on air. And thanks to Channel Nine boss David Gyngell, it did.
It wasn’t the best apology in the world because it did not go into any detail of the sins they committed.
And we’re not suggesting A Current Affair will never sin again.
But it is a start. If broadcasters are forced to admit their mistakes on air, it will surely make them a little bit more careful about making them in the first place.
A number of government inquiries have recommended change to ACMA and to media regulation.
Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull told the programme:
The Government has a general deregulation agenda, through which we intend to reduce the burden of regulation across the economy by $1 billion a year. In the radio sector, this will involve reviewing the existing regulatory framework to see which regulations are out of date, overlap or could otherwise be streamlined and made more efficient.
You can read more at Media Watch