Channel Seven has breached broadcast accuracy rules for a report aired on Sunrise that claimed a motorbike rider ‘deliberately rode off a footpath and into a 13-year-old girl’.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) investigation found that the 2020 Sunrise report on a collision between a motorbike and a schoolgirl was inaccurate as it presented as fact that the collision was intentional without sufficient evidence.
The broadcast occurred on September 18, 2020, around 8.07am, when the presenter said:
“The call’s gone out to find a young motorbike rider who deliberately rode off a footpath and into a 13-year-old-girl.”
The original complaint submitted to the network read:
“They claim he [the motorcycle rider] did this intentionally. Then go on to say that he is yet to be apprehended. I strongly question how they know intent. I see no possible way for the network to know intent if the boy has not even been apprehended or tried… it suggests [that] channel seven somehow has mind reading capabilities”
Seven disputed these claims, however, and according to ACMA’s report:
“Seven submits that the ordinary reasonable viewer would interpret the statement during the report to mean that the motorcyclist deliberately rode onto the footpath, and then deliberately rode off the footpath and onto the road, hitting the victim in the process of riding off the footpath and onto the road.”
However, the ACMA disagreed with Seven, concluding,
“The flow of the statement and the conjunction ‘and’ conveyed to the audience that the action of riding off the footpath (and onto the road) and hitting the girl were associated with each other, not only by the sequence in which they occurred, but also by the deliberate intent behind them.”
Under the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice broadcasters are required to present factual material accurately in news and current affairs programs, ensuring that viewpoints are not misrepresented.
The code that was breached was 3.3 Accuracy and Fairness, 3.3.1, which states:
“In broadcasting a news or Current Affairs Program, a Licensee must present factual material accurately and ensure viewpoints included in the Program are not misrepresented.”
ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin said these rules are in place so that Australians can be confident about what is being reported on commercial news.
“Audiences should be able to trust that information presented in news reports is factually accurate and has been properly verified. It is disappointing that Seven reported the collision as deliberate without sufficient supporting evidence,”
Following the ACMA’s finding, Seven agreed that the investigation report would be provided to Sunrise staff and they would be reminded of their obligations under the Code regarding accuracy. Seven will also include the decision in future Code training sessions with staff.