SUNDAY NIGHT AFRICAN GANGS

Seven’s Sunday Night program breached its licence accuracy requirement in a report about Melbourne’s “African gangs”, the broadcasting regulator has ruled.

The report was widely criticised when it was broadcast (including in Crikey, twice) for stoking public panic about criminal Sudanese gangs running wild in Victoria. The Australian Communications and Media Authority yesterday ruled that while the report did not breach rules against inciting hatred on the basis of race, it did breach the rule against broadcasting inaccurate statements.

In the segment, reporter Alex Cullen said “African gangs” were responsible for “an alarming surge in violent crime” in Victoria. ACMA used crime statistics to rule that the increase in crime in that state couldn’t be attributed to African gangs.

At the time, Seven said it stood by “each and every element” of its report.

Unusually for Seven, it is not challenging the ruling in court, as it did when ACMA found it had incited hatred based on race in a Sunrise segment about Indigenous children’s welfare last year. That was a relatively rare ACMA finding. Previous adjudications on that rule had included against 2GB in the lead-up to the Cronulla riots and A Current Affair’s “All-Asian Mall” story.

A spokesman said that “Seven accepts the ACMA ruling that the wording was insufficiently precise. We would point out this was a single sentence within a 20 minute report, of which the overall theme was a personal journey of challenging racial preconceptions.”

ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin said in a statement: “Viewers deserve to know that news and current affairs programs contain factual statements that are accurate. It is unacceptable for news and current affairs programs to broadcast statements that may mislead audiences.”

Some parts of the media have responded to last week’s Christchurch mosque attacks by reflecting on the platforms that have given Islamophobic and racist views in recent months and years. Seven’s friendliness to One Nation’s Pauline Hanson and Mark Latham has been particularly noted, as has also been done previously. Hanson was paid as a commentator for Sunrise in the lead-up to her election to the Senate in 2016, finally challenged on her views on Islam by Sunrise host David Koch on Monday.

But Latham appeared on the program again this morning, calling The Project host Waleed Aly a “voice of radical left wing politics” for asking if Prime Minister Scott Morrison would put One Nation candidates last in its preferences.

ACMA has asked Seven to use the breach as an example in its code of practice training courses, and tell news and current affairs staff about the breach.

Peter Fray

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