Seven’s African gangs broadcast was ‘inaccurate’, rules ACMA

The Australian Communications and Media Authority has ruled that Seven’s current affair program, Sunday Night, breached guidelines in a broadcast on July 8 2018 about ‘African gangs’.

The ACMA investigation found a claim broadcast in the program was inaccurate and in breach of the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice.

A Sunday Night reporter stated there has been a considerable increase in crime by “African gangs” and that they were responsible for “an alarming surge in violent crime” in Victoria.

ACMA has ruled that while the assertion in relation to the increase in crime was supported, the comment that ‘African gangs’ were responsible was not. ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin said the broadcast was ‘unacceptable’.

“Viewers deserve to know that news and current affairs programs contain factual statements that are accurate. It is unacceptable for news and current affairs programs to broadcast statements that may mislead audiences,” said O’Loughlin.

ACMA received three complaints concerning the broadcast, alleging material in the broadcast provoked intense dislike or serious contempt because of race, or ethnic or national origin; and was not presented accurately.

The broadcast featured both a negative story in the form of a woman who had experienced armed robberies, and a positive story in the form of a reformed South Sudanese-Australian. Because of this, ACMA found that the material did not breach the code in terms of provoking or perpetuating ‘intense dislike’ or ‘serious contempt’ because of national or ethnic origin, or race.

However, ACMA found that the quote by the reporter which stated that “for far too long police and politicians have refused to acknowledge that African gangs even existed, let alone were responsible for an alarming surge in violent crime” was inaccurate.

In response, Seven argued that the ordinary reasonable viewer would have understood that ‘African gangs’ were responsible for ‘an alarming surge’, not in violent crime in a general sense, but specifically in violent crime committed by Sudanese-born offenders when put in the context of the story.

But ACMA found that there were no indications to the viewer that the ‘alarming surge’ in violent crime referred only to violent crime committed by such a narrowly-defined group.

The authority has requested Seven bring the inaccuracy breach to the attention of news and current affairs staff and include it as an example in future code practice training courses.

In response to the ruling, Seven told Mumbrella: “Seven accepts the ACMA ruling that the wording was insufficiently precise.

“We would point out this was a single sentence within a 20 minute report, of which the overall theme was a personal journey of challenging racial preconceptions.”


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