Media Watch’s critique of new TV rules lacked appropriate ‘context’ claims media watchdog

Paul BarryThe communications watchdog dubbed a “watchpuss” by Media Watch presenter Paul Barry has returned fire saying the critique of the new Code of Practice for commercial broadcasters was riddled with errors.

Barry took a filleting knife to the code on Monday night’s show, saying the revised document would expose viewers to unidentified advertorial shows, more alcohol advertising and ignoring the increased online consumption of shows preventing some viewers from lodging complaints.

The media commentator was unequivocal in his view that the Australian Communication and Media Authority had rolled over in the face of pressure from Free TV.

However, the ACMA has disputed many of the claims Barry made, saying he had misinterpreted rules on advertorial identification and saying it was satisfied it had taken into account submissions from broadcasters and its own research of viewers.

“The segment included a suggestion that the new code will ‘make it easier for the networks to bombard us with advertorials’ because of the changed disclosure rules,” said the ACMA in a statement.

“This is incorrect. There is nothing in the current or new code which constrains the amount of ‘advertorials’ broadcast. Changed disclosure rules won’t make advertorials easier or harder to broadcast.”

It also challenged Barry on his portrayal of changes to guidelines over impartiality on current affairs shows.

The segment suggested that the explicit acknowledgement (in the new code) that current affairs programs are not required to be impartial amounts to the removal of an existing rule concerning this requirement – this is simply not the case,” it said.

“The effect of the new code and the previous code are the same – only news must be impartial and current affairs programs can take a particular view on issues.”

Other issues the ACMA has challenged Barry on include guildelines on “gratuitous emphasis,” and the removal of the “public panic” provision.

“The removal of this particular provision brings the new code into closer alignment with both the ABC and SBS codes neither of which has a ‘public panic’ rule,” it said

“Viewers of the Media Watch segment should be reassured to know that the new code includes a number of provisions regulating the broadcast of distressing material in news and current affairs programs to minimise the risk of harm or distress.”

The ACMA said the revised code provided a package of community safeguards and was satisfied the community was being protected.

It finishes by pointing to a segment on the ABC’s site containing the information the ACMA provided the show before it aired, adding viewers may find it “helpful in contextualising the segment”.

Simon Canning


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