Seven drops court proceedings against ACMA over Sunrise Indigenous adoption segment

Seven has dropped court proceedings against the Australian Communications and Media Authority over Sunrise’s ‘Hot Topics’ segment on Indigenous adoption.

Last year ACMA ruled the segment, which aired on 13 March 2018, was in breach of the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice as it was inaccurate and provoked racial contempt.

At the time Seven hit out at the body, with director of news and public affairs, Craig McPherson, saying political correctness prevented meaningful discussion.

“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.

“The coverage included a detailed follow-up segment on Sunrise featuring expert analysis from leading Aboriginal leaders and academics who expressed appreciation this issue was finally being raised in mainstream media.

“The irony is that the very issue the commentators were critical of, that is political correctness preventing meaningful discussion and action, has come to bear with this finding.”

ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin said she welcomed Seven’s decision to cease court proceedings.

“The decision to withdraw the application for judicial review is an important acceptance of the ACMA’s findings,” said O’Loughlin.

“Channel Seven’s response to the ACMA takes account of the high threshold for this breach finding.

“Remedial action must allow for the discussion of matters in the public interest, including extremely sensitive topics. However, these discussions must be done with due care, with editorial framing to ensure compliance with the Code.”

ACMA found in August 2018 that the introduction to the segment claiming Indigenous children could ‘only be placed with relatives or other Indigenous families’ was inaccurate and in breach of the Code.

ACMA investigation also found that the segment provoked serious contempt on the basis of race in breach of the Code as it contained strong negative generalisations about Indigenous people as a group.

A Seven spokesperson said the network was happy they could work with ACMA to reach a resolution.

“Seven has worked with the ACMA to agree on the appropriate steps that enable both parties to move on and avoid the time and expense of court action.”

Seven has agreed to provide to the ACMA a court enforceable undertaking in relation to sensitive and complex matters of this kind. It will involve commissioning an independent audit of the production processes for the current affairs content of Sunrise and ensuring editorial staff are provided with training in relation to identifying and dealing with such matters.


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