Watchdog ACMA welcomes call for the power to enforce broadcaster’s on-air corrections

Chris Chapman

Chapman: ‘Logical’

Media watchdog the Australian Communications and Media Authority  has welcomed a parliamentary report that says the organisation should be given the power to force on-air corrections.

Chris Chapman, the ACMA chairman, told Encore he believes recommendations handed down by the Joint Select Committee on Broadcasting Legislation are “sensible and logical”.

The recommendation was made last month but went virtually unnoticed as it came out during the Labor leadership spill.

“The committee recommended that we be given the power to require the broadcasting of our findings,” said Chapman. “That is an entirely sensible and logical recommendation.” 

Encore understands that the organisation has been lobbying the government for the introduction of so-called “mid-tier” powers. Current legislation gives the ACMA the choice between admonishing broadcasters or withdrawing their broadcasting licences with few options in between.

Reforms around on-air corrections face strong opposition from broadcasters who maintain the ACMA already has sufficient powers over television and radio.

Julie Flynn, CEO of Free TV Australia, told Encore: “The ACMA already has a range of powers and had an increase in their enforcement powers in 2006. There is no evidence of repeated or flagrant breaches or a systemic problem. We are not newspapers. Broadcasters only have a certain number of hours in the day and we already do on-air corrections.”

The radio industry also has concerns with Joan Warner, CEO of Commercial Radio Australia, arguing the ACMA does not need further powers in this area. She said: “The ACMA has numerous means of communication of any of its findings including the ACMA website, press releases, public forums and social media, all of which it employs regularly.”

The regulator has long been plagued by the view that it is a ‘toothless tiger’ as legislation prevents the watchdog from forcing broadcasters to correct breaches of the Codes of Practice.

Already this year there have been a number of cases where the ACMA has asked broadcasters to acknowledge breaches on-air with mixed results. In April, South Australian radio station FiveAA apologised on-air, at the request of ACMA, for host Bob Francis who made insensitive comments about asylum seekers. Conversely the ACMA failed to get on-air corrections from other broadcasters such as WIN News Illawarra and Nine’s A Current Affair. WIN News was found to have breached the Code during a report of a measles outbreak but refused to broadcast a correction, while A Current Affair breached provisions on accuracy, privacy and complaints handling in a story about former Olympic gold medallist Neil Brooks. The Nine current affairs show agreed only to acknowledge the breach on its website.

Anthony Albanese, the communications minister, is currently reviewing the committee’s report and recommendations. A spokesman for the minister said: “The government is considering the recommendations of the report and will respond in due course.”

A decision around the ACMA being given additional powers is not expected this year.

If the Liberal party is to win office at the 2013 Federal election, the ACMA’s lobbying push may meet a hostile reception. A dissenting report from the Liberal/National MPs on the committee stated: “The Coalition members do not agree that the ACMA has made a persuasive case that broadcasters should at this time be obliged by legislation to broadcast on-air corrections.”

Nic Christensen

Encore issue 25This story first appeared in the weekly edition of Encore available for iPad and Android tablets. Visit for a preview of the app or click below to download.


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