The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has officially cleared the broadcasters that showed footage of the Christchurch terrorist attack of any official wrongdoing.
But the authority was still critical in its judgement of the overall treatment of the incident by the Australian media, particularly around viewer warnings, which it described as ‘inadequate’.
“The Christchurch terror attack presented a unique circumstance for Australian television news producers. Immediate and difficult editorial decisions needed to be made to strike a balance between informing the public about the unfolding incident and broadcasting seriously distressing content,” said ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin.
ACMA announced it would be investigating mainstream media coverage of the March 15 attacks after some broadcasters replayed snippets of the “perpetrator-generated, live streamed extreme violent material”.
More specifically, the authority looked at incidents like;
- ABC showing still images from the footage
- Sky News Live using video/audio excerpts from the alleged perpetrator’s bodycam (including gunfire directed at a person)
- SBS screening material that included a largely unedited excerpt from the gunfire
- Network Ten using footage from the alleged perpetrator’s bodycam
- The Nine Network playing excerpts from the alleged perpetrator’s bodycam video including several where gunfire was directed toward people
- The Seven Network using excerpts from the alleged perpetrator’s bodycam video
The authority did acknowledge that in all cases where footage from the alleged perpetrator’s footage was used, it was heavily edited.
“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,” said O’Loughlin.
“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.”
In terms of potential industry responses, ACMA indicated there could be a potential change to the codes of practice.
The scrutiny placed onto Australian broadcasters follows widespread condemnation towards Facebook for its role in the streaming and distribution of the footage, ultimately leading to the Christchurch Call agreement being signed.