WIN TV breaches Code after viewer identifies road victim

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Media watchdog ACMA has ruled that WIN Television has breached the Commercial TV Industry Code of Practice after indirectly identifying the victim of a fatal NSW car accident before authorities notified the immediate family of the victim.

In a Nine News update which aired in August 2014, footage was briefly visible of part of a number plate of one of the cars involved in the accident.

An investigation by the Australian Media and Communications Authority found that the visible part of the number plate, combined with the vehicle’s specific make and colour, was distinctive enough to be recognisable to immediate family members.

Clause 4.3.8 of the Code requires that ‘in broadcasting news and current affairs programs, licensees must take all reasonable steps to ensure that murder or accident victims are not identified directly or, where practicable, indirectly before their immediate families are notified by the authorities’.

“The complainant asserted that they were able to identify the victim, their mother-in-law, based on the image of the partial number plate shown in the broadcast,” said ACMA Chairman, Chris Chapman. “This was a crucial factor in the ACMA finding a breach.”

It’s not the first time an incident of this nature has occurred. Last year Seven News in Perth also breached the Code after road accident footage revealed a motorcycle top box, a black backpack, and a white plastic bag, again causing the family to identify the victim.

While the latest case involved Nine News, the complainant viewed the broadcast via WIN Television Victoria.

As a result of the breach, WIN TV has undertaken to:

  • ensure its news team is aware of the result of the investigation and the ACMA’s reasoning
  • provide further training to its news teams on how to better handle these types of matters in future, and to include this investigation in its code training materials.

WIN TV has also apologised to the family.

9 Comments:

  1. Why show motor vehicle road wreckage and broken Human Beings on news services at all, it was originally aired on TV a long time ago to make us aware of the folly of a myriad of things that cause these events, it didn’t work then it’s not listened to and viewed now if it were these events would, in all likelihood, be lessened.

  2. I have looked further into this. The accident occurred at Woodburn in northern NSW, so Nine News Sydney would not have been directly involved. It still aired on Nine News because this is part of affiliation branding, but it was generated within regional news. Hope this clears things up!

    • If the report was from Northern NSW, that’s NBN’s territory, and Sydney-based reporters(stringers) should stay south of Hawkesbury River! In any case, TCN as well as WIN should’ve been held in breach of the relevant code.

  3. So, taken to an extreme, WIN could suffer a huge penalty (and pigs may fly, of course) if Nine relayed them something that was highly offensive/defamatory/obscene. but at the same time Nine could escape any penalty completely? Because the complainant(s) saw it on WIN, not on Nine? Hope there’s a clause in the affiliation agreements to protect or compensate the affiliate from big brother’s stuff-ups.

  4. Why are WIN accountable for this. It was a nine news report, produced and edited in full by nine, simply broadcast by WIN as they’re expected to do. It’s horrible for a family to find out in such a way, but it will soon not be worth even sending a crew on location as the pictures are going to be fully blurred to not allow anything identifiable to be seen. It will be no more than a map with a dot on it showing where the incident occurred.

      • What it the point of training Win TV staff in making news stories, when this story was made by Nine and sent out live?

        What exactly what is the public interest in sending a camera crew out to film footage of a wrecked car, while they read out information put out by the Police Media Unit at head office, so that viewers can gawk at it ? If they showed another bit of random car crash footage would anyone notice, or care?

        It’s used to generate ratings. In this case in an ad for Nine News dressed up as a news update.

  5. spectrum warrior

    why have these rules? a stern letter that says “your just a naughty boy” is not going to stop this from happening again. Television have had cut backs followed by cut backs, adding stress to workflows for years. At least there should be a $20K fine for the first offense and double it for each future “error”. I can guarantee lawyers will be making a lot more money. At least someone does.

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