Nine’s Underbelly breaches TV Code - again
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has ruled that Channel Nine’s controversial Underbelly program has again breached the TV Code of Practice.
A letter received today by FamilyVoice Australia, signed by Damien Power of ACMA, confirmed that three Code breaches occurred early this year:
· a promo for Underbelly during a G viewing zone showed a man using a gun in a menacing way, contrary to an explicit prohibition in the Code;
· two Channel Nine responses to complaints about Underbelly had not been substantive and sent within the required 30 day period, contrary to Code requirements.
“There was no penalty imposed on Channel Nine for these breaches, even though ACMA put Channel Nine on notice about Underbelly after FamilyVoice complaints were upheld last year,” said FamilyVoice national policy officer Richard Egan.
“It is no wonder that very few people want to jump through all the hoops required to lodge a complaint. Emails or phone calls are not considered valid complaints – you have to send a letter within 30 days. Then you have to wait 30 working days (ie six weeks) for a substantive response from the broadcaster. Only then, if not satisfied, can you send another letter enclosing all relevant correspondence to ACMA. Then, if ACMA eventually decides to investigate, you have to wait six to 12 months for a result. Then, even if your complaint is upheld, there is usually no penalty,” Mr Egan said. “You begin to wonder why you went to all that trouble.
“For many years we have urged Free TV Australia (ie all commercial TV stations) to accept email complaints. They have always refused our request – but we hope this will now change.
“Channel Nine’s responses to two complainants (me and another person I do not know) failed to reach us because our addresses were typed wrongly,” Richard Egan said. “This type of mistake could be avoided with email complaints, because the station need only click on the reply button to send a prompt response to the correct address. Moreover those who send a complaint by email can request an email receipt which indicates that the complaint has been received. Emails have significant advantages over snail mail, and most businesses use emails routinely these days.
“There is no excuse for Free TV Australia to continue to insist on old fashioned snail mail or faxes,” Mr Egan said. “Unlike most other industries, television is self-regulated in this country – which means that an efficient system of responding to viewer complaints is essential if high standards are to be maintained.
“The current complaints system is a farce. We urge ACMA and the federal government to intervene to make self-regulation work. Allowing complaints to be sent by email would be a step in the right direction,” Mr Egan said.
FamilyVoice Australia Media Release 3 December 2009
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