ACMA, the TV regulator, has pinged the Nine Network twice for not complying with the complaints handling provisions of the TV industry’s self regulatory code of practice.

The regulator found that Nine failed to tell the complainants – relating to stories on A Current Affair and the QTQ 6pm news in Brisbane – how they could continue the process if they were not happy with the way the network had responded.

Nine has now had eight complaint handling breaches since January, 2005, so this is about much more than the programs being complained about.

ACMA now considers Nine to be a serial offender which can’t be relied upon to do the right thing, so its performance in this area will be monitored at the end of June this year and June, 2008.

So serious is the problem that in its press release, ACMA revealed that Nine CEO, Eddie McGuire had “personally directed that the new procedures be implemented as a matter of urgency to meet its complaints handling obligations”.

Prior to 2004 when I left Nine, the network had set up a complaints handling procedure with a designated officer and training for producers on how they could and should respond to complaints.

Clearly that has been allowed to run down: in-house training has been cut to save costs, new producers are in place, many without any training in this sensitive area, and Nine has paid the price for focusing on costs and not on its licence obligations.

Another breach could see Nine’s licences penalised in some way.

Peter Fray

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