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Seven agrees to court-enforced independent review of Sunrise

As part of the ongoing saga surrounding a panel on the adoption of Indigenous children, Seven has agreed to a court-enforceable independent review of the Sunrise production process.

Earlier this year ACMA found that the panel segment, broadcast in March 2018, breached the Commercial TV Code of Practice. Seven sought a judicial review of the findings, but discontinued court proceedings in April.

The panel drew concern over the lack of inclusion of Indigenous commentators

Now Seven must conduct an independent review of how and which relevant production processes on Sunrise ensure code compliance around sensitive and complex matters.

The court-enforceable independent review will then require a report to be provided to Seven’s board and Audit and Risk Committee within six months. ACMA will verify the independence of, and terms of reference for, the review. A Seven spokesman noted the review is the ‘formalisation of the agreement made two months ago’.

The ‘Hot Topics’ segment saw a panel discuss the adoption of Indigenous children and child abuse in Indigenous communities, with the suggestion offered by panellist Prue MacSween that another Stolen Generation may be the answer.

The Stolen Generation refers to the time, between 1905 and 1970, when Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families by the Australian federal and state government agencies and church missions.

MacSween made the suggestion after Sunrise host Samantha Armytage falsely stated that Indigenous children could only be fostered with Indigenous families.

ACMA found that the segment was inaccurate and provoked serious contempt on the basis of race in breach of the industry’s code.

Seven has also undertaken that Sunrise editorial staff will be trained to identify and deal with sensitive matters. This training must be done within six months and ACMA must be notified within five business days.

The review comes as Seven has failed to stop a lawsuit alleging that Sunrise defamed some Indigenous people by showing slightly blurred background footage of them during the panel discussion.

Yolngu woman Kathy Mununggurr and 14 others from the Northern Territory community of Yirrkala are suing Seven over the show.

Seven hit out at ACMA at the time of the ruling, with director of news and public affairs, Craig McPherson, saying the discussion of important topics was being hampered by political correctness.

“We are extremely disappointed the ACMA has seen fit to cast a label on a segment that covered an important matter of public interest, child abuse, sparked by comments attributed to a government minister and widely circulated in the press on the morning of the broadcast,” said McPherson.

“While the ACMA recognises the segment was underpinned by concern for the welfare of Indigenous children, it has isolated comments from independent commentators without any context to the broader coverage given to this topic.”

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