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ABC and production company apologise for ‘devastating error’ in Tracey Spicer #MeToo documentary

The ABC and production company Southern Pictures has been forced to apologise for an error which saw a preview version of a documentary about the #MeToo movement include names, faces and personal stories of rape and domestic violence without consent or knowledge of those involved.

The error, which was highlighted by a joint investigation between news.com.au and Buzzfeed News, has been called ‘devastating’ by the production company and ‘utterly gutting’ by advocate and founder of NOW Australia Tracey Spicer, who features in the documentary.

Tracey Spicer has come under fire for her involvement in Silent No More

A preview version of Silent No More, a three-part documentary about the rise of the #MeToo movement in Australia, was distributed by ABC to media outlets in October, ahead of a November launch. The documentary reportedly contained disclosures which were received by Spicer without the consent of the women involved. Names and faces of victims also appeared.

Victims who spoke with news.com.au and Buzzfeed said they had no knowledge of the documentary, or their involvement in it. The version has since been removed.

A statement from the ABC blamed ‘human error’ for the preview, and said it was sent to ‘a small number of accredited media under embargo’.

“This early version had not yet had names and details of three women blurred in shots of a computer screen. Significant steps were taken to de-identify names and details in the broadcast version and it has always been our intention that these names and details be blurred before broadcast,” read the statement.

The ABC apologised for any harm or upset caused by the error, and said the welfare of victims is of the ‘utmost importance’ to the ABC.

“The welfare of those who have suffered sexual abuse or harassment is of utmost importance to the ABC and we wish to assure them that Silent No More will treat these issues with respect and care while shining a light on the need for positive change in this area.”

A statement from Southern Pictures was explicitly clear that the final version would not identify anyone without consent.

“Our first priority is our duty of care to those impacted by sexual harassment and #MeToo, along with supporting the work that is being done to address the issue of sexual harassment,” said the production company.

The disclosures in question were sent directly to Spicer without consent to be shared elsewhere. Spicer says she was assured identities would be protected.

“As a participant in this documentary, I was assured survivors’ identities would be fully protected. I am utterly gutted about what has occurred. I apologise deeply and unreservedly to those whose names were visible in that initial version of the program. I’m relieved that the ABC has swiftly moved to take it down and that no one is identified in the broadcast version,” said Spicer.

The error comes after a report from Buzzfeed News, released last month, accused Spicer and the leaders behind NOW Australia of making lofty promises associated with the #MeToo movement in Australia, and being unable to support those promises past the launch point.

Silent No More will air on the ABC from Monday, November 25 at 8.30pm.

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