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Seven breached children’s privacy in Seven News and Sunday Night broadcasts: ACMA

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (AMCA) has found Seven breached the Commercial Television Code of Practice in broadcasts on both Seven News and Sunday Night.

The episodes in question, which aired on 5 July and 5 August 2018 respectively, focused on alleged schoolyard bullying and showed mobile phone footage which invaded the privacy of several children, according to the ACMA investigation.

ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin said that while the subject matter should be discussed, the manner in which it was handled by Seven was inappropriate.

“Public interest issues, including school bullying, can, and indeed should, be explored on news and current affairs programs. In this case it was inappropriate to disclose children’s personal information,” said O’Loughlin.

While Seven didn’t name the children and attempted to blur their faces, the footage was found by ACMA to be highly sensitive as it identified children engaged in anti-social and violent behaviour.

Seven responded to the complaints by saying that as the footage was ‘not of a private nature’, and the children involved were not identified, no privacy laws had been breached.

ACMA ruled that just because the footage was provided by the victim in the alleged bullying incident, who gave permission for it to be used, did not mean the other children involved had provided permission.

“Broadcasters must exercise special care when dealing with children. It is not good enough for broadcasters to assume that footage is in the public domain and can be broadcast just because it is on social media,” said O’Loughlin.

As a result of the ruling, ACMA has requested Seven remove copies of the mobile phone footage from its website and social media pages. The network will also bring the breach to the attention of staff and include it in future training.

This is the second breach of the Commercial Television Code of Practice Seven has been found to have committed in the last week, with Sunday Night’s ‘African Gangs’ segment also found to have breached the code.

Seven declined to comment further on the matter.

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