SBS breaches Code of Practice in Referendum discussion

SBS found two Code breaches after an investigation into a heated debate on The Voice.

SBS Ombudsman Amy Stockwell has found two breaches of the SBS Code of Practice following a broadcast of The Point: Australia Decides broadcast on 14 October.

The broadcaster received 8 complaints under its Code of Practice. The Ombudsman found two breaches of the SBS Code of Practice as part of those investigations, relating to impartiality and balance.

In a heated interview between former SBS Board Member and No campaigner Warren Mundine hit out at Yes campaigner Marcia Langton.

“I’m not going to take any comments from a person who thinks that we are a racist country, and that we are racist people,” he said.

Host Narelda Jacobs interjected, defending “national treasure” Marcia Langton whose “words were twisted”.

Langton denied claims that she branded No voters “racist” or “stupid” while speaking at a referendum event in Bunbury earlier this month, clarifying her quotes were taken out of context.

Ombudsman Amy Stockwell advised Mundine, “You have indicated in your complaint you were referring to a recording of comments reportedly made by Professor Langton in 2017.

“The host and panellists understood you were referring to comments made by Professor Langton the previous month in Bunbury …

“Given the timing and the context of the program, the host’s belief you were referring to the comments made by the Professor during the referendum campaign was not unreasonable.”

After Narelda Jacobs told viewers, “Well, we’ve just seen who Warren Mundine is” Stockwell noted: “The terms chosen for that specific intervention, particularly the character observation in the closing statement, gave the impression one perspective had been unduly favoured over another in a way that was inconsistent with the impartiality provisions of the Code.”

“SBS apologises for these breaches,” Stockwell wrote to Mundine. “The content will not be rebroadcast.”

“We note the SBS Ombudsman’s findings related to elements of a robust exchange between guests during the live program. The intention of the actions taken by the program team was to ensure that the conversation taking place remained clear for audiences, fact-based and a safe space for discussion,” SBS said in a statement.

“SBS and NITV support the work of its teams throughout the year in delivering comprehensive and impartial coverage of the referendum which explored a diversity of views, provided important insights elevating First Nations perspectives, and made a constructive contribution to the national conversation. This included The Point which travelled 39,000km to broadcast from locations in every state and territory, to ensure the voices of First Nations communities across the continent were heard.”

Source: Daily Telegraph