ACMA clears broadcasters over Christchurch coverage

By Mariam Cheik-Hussein | 22 July 2019

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has cleared news broadcasters over their reporting of the Christchurch terrorist attack which left 51 dead.

ACMA released its findings today after an investigation which began on 18 March, just three days after the attack. It looked at more than 200 hours of broadcast footage, and at information broadcasters provided about their editorial decisions.

“The ACMA considers that there was some material and treatment of that material that raises questions about whether there was compliance with the broadcasting codes of practice,” CMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin says.

“However, given the level of responsibility shown by the broadcasters and the unique circumstances of this incident, we do not intend to make compliance findings about individual broadcasts.”

Instead ACMA made a number of “observations” arising from its investigation for the industry to consider:

  • the need for extreme care when broadcasting material with high impact, in particular explicit footage of a person being killed
  • the inconsistent, inadequate and ad hoc provision of viewer warnings
  • the frequent repetition within short time frames of high-impact vision
  • the need for particular care when broadcasting excerpts from perpetrator and victim generated content
  • that overseas produced news content may result in the broadcast of footage that exceeds the impact of material edited for broadcast by Australian broadcasters.

The response from ACMA to clear broadcasters comes as traditional media calls for a crackdown on social media, which isn’t subject to the same regulation.

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