The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has accused Seven’s Sunrise of breaching the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice.
The segment in question was part of ‘Hot Topics’ where Sunrise host Samantha Armytage was joined by controversial media commentator Prue MacSween and Brisbane radio host Ben Davis to talk about a push by the federal government to change adoption policies for Indigenous kids in March.
The discussion drew controversy almost immediately, with protestors showing up at the Seven studios the following morning.
In a statement from ACMA, the authority said: “The ACMA found that the introduction to the segment claiming Indigenous children could ‘only be placed with relatives or other Indigenous families,’ was inaccurate and in breach of the Code.
“Seven should have taken steps to verify the accuracy of this claim before it was used as the foundation for a panel discussion.”
During the segment, Children’s minister David Gillespie argued that white families should be allowed to adopt abused Aboriginal children to save them from rape, assault and neglect.
While MacSween said it would be “crazy to even contemplate people arguing against this”.
In its statement, ACMA added: “The segment provoked serious contempt on the basis of race in breach of the Code as it contained strong negative generalisations about Indigenous people as a group.”
“These included sweeping references to a ‘generation’ of young Indigenous children being abused. While it may not have been Seven’s intention, by implication the segment conveyed that children left in Indigenous families would be abused and neglected, in contrast to non-Indigenous families where they would be protected.”
ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin also commented: “Broadcasters can, of course, discuss matters of public interest, including extremely sensitive topics such as child abuse in Indigenous communities.
“However, such matters should be discussed with care, with editorial framing to ensure compliance with the Code.”
In response to ACMA, Seven released its own statement, with the director of news and public affairs Craig McPherson claiming the broadcaster is “extremely disappointed” in ACMA.
“We are extremely disappointed the ACMA has seen fit to cast a label on a segment that covered an important matter of public interest, child abuse, sparked by comments attributed to a Government minister and widely circulated in the press on the morning of the broadcast.
“While the ACMA recognises the segment was underpinned by concern for the welfare of Indigenous children, it has isolated comments from independent commentators without any context to the broader coverage given to this topic.
Seven went on to say the segment was balanced by a follow-up segment which included leading analysts.
“The coverage included a detailed follow-up segment on Sunrise featuring expert analysis from leading Aboriginal leaders and academics who expressed appreciation this issue was finally being raised in mainstream media.
“The irony is that the very issue the commentators were critical of, that is political correctness preventing meaningful discussion and action, has come to bear with this finding.
“The finding seeks to rule out issues and topics for discussion segments, as determined by ACMA. Its decision is a form of censorship; a direct assault on the workings of an independent media and the thousands of issue-based segments covered every year by Sunrise, other like programs, newspapers and talkback radio.
Adding, “The 7 Network will be seeking a judicial appeal.”