Channel Nine’s A Current Affair has agreed to issue a rare on-air correction tonight after the communications watchdog found a notorious story on an “Asian Mall” in Sydney breached the television code of practice.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority found the story — which claimed a shopping centre in Castle Hill was being overtaken by Asian retailers — contained inaccuracies, placed a gratuitous emphasis on ethnic origin and was likely to promote intense dislike and serious contempt on the grounds of ethnic origin. The November story by reporter Ben McCormack was quickly debunked by local paper The Hills Shire Times, as Crikey reported last year.

Accoridng to the ACMA, this is the first time a commercial TV broadcaster has made an on-air statement as a result of an ACMA investigation.

The ACMA found the story, which featured a cameo from Pauline Hanson, was likely to have provoked intense dislike or serious contempt by broadcasting:

  • Negative misinformation about Australians of Asian ethnic origins;
  • Inflammatory language and visuals generating feelings of threat from people of Asian ethnic origins;
  • Language implying that Australians of Asian ethnic origins did not belong in Australia.

The story was found to contain several inaccuracies. These included claims Asian speciality shops would occupy “almost all” of the mall’s lower level when the plan was four of the 16 retailers were to be Asian speciality shops. The story also claimed Aussie shopkeepers were being forced out when the plan was to relocate them within the mall.

A Current Affair will make an on-air statement about the findings on tonight’s episode. ACMA chairman Chris Chapman said:

“I commend TCN for acting on the ACMA’s recommendations. The broadcaster is to be congratulated for taking a mature approach to matters of such concern, and for being transparent with its viewers.”

The ACMA has long pushed for the government to grant it new “mid-tier” powers including the ability to force broadcasters to issue on-air corrections.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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