WIN found guilty of broadcasting measles scare story – but refuses to do on air correction

WIN Television has been found guilty of broadcasting misleading information about measles vaccinations by industry watchdog the Australian Communications and Media Authority – and has refused to broadcast a correction.

ACMA found that WIN News Illawarra was guilty of two breaches of the commercial TV code of practice in its reporting of a measles outbreak. According to ACMA:

“The report was broadcast on 16 August 2012 and concerned an outbreak of measles in south-western Sydney.

“Included in the story was the following unqualified statement made by a non-expert: ‘All vaccinations, in the medical literature, have been linked with the possibility of causing autism…’

“The Australian Communications and Media Authority found that by broadcasting that statement and by conveying a higher level of controversy and uncertainty about immunisation than was justified by the facts, WIN TV had failed to broadcast factual material accurately.”

The issue of a link between autism and vaccinations – viewed as a myth by the medical establishment – sprang into life after medical journal The Lancet published a research paper in 1998. The publication has since retracted the report after it emerged that the author had conflicts of interest and had manipulated data. He was struck off the British medical register as a result of the fraud. The report – labelled “the most damaging medical hoax of the last 100 years” led to vaccination rates around the world dropping sharply, leading to many more deaths from mumps and measles.

Despite that, fringe groups have continued to claim a link.

‘The story would have misled an ordinary viewer about the level of risk of vaccinating children,’ said ACMA chairman, Chris Chapman of the WIN report.

According to ACMA finding: “The ACMA also found that WIN TV did not make reasonable efforts to correct the significant error of fact.”

However, Chapman said despite the failings, ACMA has been unable to persuade WIN to broadcast on on air correction.

Chapman said: ‘While the ACMA has no power to direct the making of an on-air corrective statement, given the circumstances of this case and the important public health issues involved, the ACMA recommended to WIN TV that it make an on-air statement concerning the ACMA’s findings.”

ACMA revealed: “The licensee has, however, declined to take this opportunity to clarify on air this important public health issue, one which no doubt remains of ongoing concern to its audience and the wider Australian public. The licensee offered to provide a link on its website to the ACMA’s finding.”


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