ACMA finding a loss disguised as a win

1st June 2012

The Australian Communications and Media Authority's (ACMA) finding that anti-gambling reform comments broadcast on Channel 9 were not political commentary requiring an authorisation highlights the need for urgent reform of current broadcasting rules, Independent Senator for SA, Nick Xenophon said.

Senator Xenophon and Independent Member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie, complained to ACMA about a broadcast during the NRL's 2011 preliminary final, in which commentator Phil Gould told viewers:

"the proposed mandatory pre-commitment that they’ve put forward is rubbish policy. It won't work, it won't solve the problem they say they're going to target, and it will do irreparable damage to the hospitality industry. It won't work, and it will hurt. You're 100 per cent right. I've never seen a more stupid policy in my life."

A visual on the screen displayed a Clubs Australia run website.

Senator Xenophon said ACMA's finding was based on a technicality and showed that the rules they had to work with were too weak. ACMA found (page 9 of report 2686) that:

"Where political matter is broadcast during a current affairs program on commercial television, it is subject to the requirements of Section 4 of the Code, including a requirement for factual material to be broadcast accurately and for viewpoints to be represented fairly. It is, in the ACMA's view, anomalous that these requirements do not apply to political matter broadcast during other kinds of programs - including sports programs."

"For the AHA and Clubs Australia to trumpet this as some huge win on their part is pretty pathetic. ACMA has found the current rules are deficient and need to be reformed," Nick said.

"To use language that the industry might understand, this decision is very much a loss disguised as a win."

"My beef was never primarily with Channel 9 - it was over the misleading information put out by Clubs Australia that commentators and senior management fell for. I again challenge Anthony Ball to a public debate at the National Press Club."