Channel Nine News might have been taking too many tips from its stablemate A Current Affair. 

The Australian Communications and Media Authority slapped Sydney Nine News Sunday on the wrist yesterday, finding it breached the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice with its item “Protecting Perks”, broadcast in July 2016.

“The ACMA found that Channel Nine breached the fairness and impartiality requirements of the news provisions of the code by using non-neutral language, unfair juxtapositions of facts, comical graphics and a tone more commonly found in current affairs programming, to which different standards apply,” said acting ACMA chairman Richard Bean in statement.

The story alleged the former Ku-ring-gai mayor Cheryl Szatow and Ku-ring-gai Council had engaged in wasteful spending, including funding a legal challenge to the state government’s plan to amalgamate Ku-ring-gai with Hornsby Council.

ACMA received a complaint asserting that the reporting was biased and unfair and contained five factually inaccurate assertions. The body found that the news item contained one factual inaccuracy — concerning the amount the mayor had spent on flower deliveries for her office per week — but the other four assertions did not result in any breaches.

Of course, to the extent that different standards apply to news and current affairs programs, the enforcement power available to ACMA renders the point somewhat moot. ACMA can’t fine or prosecute a broadcaster, or even direct a broadcast to do anything in response to a breach. According to ACMA’s statement, in this case Channel Nine has agreed to “inform relevant staff involved in the production and broadcast of the news item of the ACMA’s reasoning and findings” and use “the matter as an example in future training of all relevant staff”. — Charlie Lewis

Peter Fray

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