PUBLIC REPORT ON AUDIENCE COMMENTS AND COMPLAINTS JANUARY – MARCH 2008 ABC Complaint Handling Procedures . 3 Overview . 4 Summary of complaints upheld by Audience and Consumer Affairs . 7
Matters of fairness, accuracy and independence . 7
Corporate / Infrastructure………………………………………………………………. 29
Summary of investigations completed by the Complaints Review Executive. 30
Report first published 18 July 2008. Corrected and republished 31 July 2009.
ABC Complaint Handling Procedures
The ABC is responsible for the quality and standards of all content on its services.
With so much content being provided each day, from time to time errors may occur. The ABC
aims to ensure that they happen as rarely as possible. Should errors occur, however, the
ABC accepts responsibility and will respond promptly and appropriately.
The ABC seeks to respond to complaints as quickly as possible. We aim to finalise all replies
within 28 days of receipt of the complaint.
The roles of ABC Audience and Consumer Affairs and the ABC’s Complaints Review
ABC Audience and Consumer Affairs
ABC Audience and Consumer Affairs deals with written complaints about ABC programs.
Depending on the nature of the complaint, it will either be investigated by Audience and
Consumer Affairs or referred to the relevant division for direct response. All written
complaints alleging a breach of the ABC’s Editorial Policies or Code of Practice will be
investigated by Audience and Consumer Affairs.
Audience and Consumer Affairs is independent of program making divisions within the ABC.
Complaints can be sent to Audience and Consumer Affairs at GPO Box 9994 in your capital
city or submitted via ABC Online at www.abc.net.au/contact.
If a complainant expresses dissatisfaction with a response received from Audience and
Consumer Affairs, the complainant will be advised of the review mechanisms available,
including the ABC’s Complaints Review Executive (CRE).
Complaints Review Executive
The ABC established the role of Complaints Review Executive (CRE) to provide an additional
level of internal review for complainants who express dissatisfaction with ABC Audience and
Consumer Affairs’ response to their complaint.
The CRE has broad scope to independently review both the broadcast and the manner in
which the complaint was originally dealt with, and determine whether the ABC acted
appropriately. The CRE is independent of both ABC Audience and Consumer Affairs and all
This additional tier of internal review does not preclude complainants from seeking external
review via the Australian Communications & Media Authority, or the ABC’s Independent
Complaints Review Panel, depending on the nature of the complaint. Both these forms of
review are external and entirely independent of the ABC.
This report provides information about audience complaints finalised by ABC Audience and
Consumer Affairs and the ABC’s Complaints Review Executive between 1 January and
Specifically, the report outlines: the overall composition of contacts finalised; the timeliness of responses; the subject matter of complaints received; and the number of complaints upheld.
The report also provides summary details of all complaints upheld by ABC Audience and
Consumer Affairs and all reviews finalised by the Complaints Review Executive during this
Overall there were 10,882 written contacts finalised during this period. Of these, complaints
made up 41% of contacts with 4,501 complaints (comprising 4,559 issues). Audience and
Consumer Affairs provided a personal response to 2,898 of these complaints. 1,085
complaint contacts were referred to other areas of the Corporation for direct response, 21
complaint contacts were handled by the Complaints Review Executive (CRE) and no
substantive response was required for 497 complaint contacts.
Audience and Consumer Affairs plays two distinct roles in responding to audience complaints.
Where a written complaint suggests that the ABC may have breached its Editorial Policies or
Code of Practice, Audience and Consumer Affairs will investigate the complaint and
determine whether ABC editorial standards have been met. In cases where these standards
have not been met, the complaint will be upheld (either fully or in part). Audience and
Consumer Affairs also provide an audience liaison service for complaints about matters of
personal taste and preference – these can include scheduling matters, preferences for
different presenters, and so on. While Audience and Consumer Affairs responds to these
complaints, they are not capable of being upheld. The 2,898 responses to complaints sent by
Audience and Consumer Affairs this quarter includes complaints in both of the categories
Of the complaints investigated by Audience and Consumer Affairs, 108 (comprising 145
issues) were upheld either fully or partially.
Overall composition of audience contacts Table 1: Written contacts finalised. Type of Contact Letter/Fax Complaint Appreciation / Request / Suggestion Grand Total Table 2: Timeliness of responses provided. Type of contact Average response time % of responses provided within 28 days Subject matter of complaints finalised Table 3: Topics of complaint issues finalised. Note that this table counts the number of issues raised by the contacts received. As one contact can raise multiple issues the figures in this table will not match exactly those quoted above for contacts. It also includes complaints Sub total
Not as advertised / misleading / inconsistent
Language - poor terminology / misuse of word
Language - pronunciation / grammar / spelling
Program presentation / set design / camera work
Sound quality / voiceovers / background music
Sub total Sub total
Incidental advertising - Non ABC products / logos
Sub total Sub total Grand Total Summary of complaints upheld by Audience and Consumer Affairs
In each case where a complaint is upheld the ABC provides a written response to the
complainant acknowledging its error. Where appropriate, additional action is taken to rectify
the mistake and/or ensure that the problem does not recur. Findings in response to upheld
complaints can include the following: written apologies to complainants; on-air corrections and
apologies; counselling or reprimanding of staff; amending programs for future broadcasts; and
reviews of and improvements to procedures. On occasion, a complaint may be upheld for
(i) Matters of fairness, accuracy and independence Factual inaccuracy
There were 72 complaints (comprising 94 issues) upheld on the grounds of factual
Upheld complaints of factual inaccuracy relating to ABC Television
There were 53 complaints upheld on the grounds of factual inaccuracy. Four complaints, each
upheld on three counts of factual inaccuracy, were also upheld as a breach of the impartiality
requirements and are detailed in the Bias/Balance section of this report.
Catalyst – 23 August 2007
A viewer observed errors in a Catalyst story which recounted significant scientific
The ABC acknowledged that this story included inaccurate references to the century in which
Copernicus publicised his heliocentric model of the universe and the century in which the first
books were published with a printing press. The former occurred in the sixteenth century and
the latter in the fifteenth century; neither occurred in the seventeenth century, as Catalyst
erroneously stated. These two errors were corrected on the Catalyst website.
A complaint handling breach was also recorded as the complainant did not receive a
response within the statutory 60 day period.
Lateline – 25 October 2007
A follow up complaint was made about coverage of the 2007 Federal Election, specifically
that a report on the Australian Democrats lacked balance. The complainant raised an issue in
relation to the reporter’s comment that “the only media they’ve had so far are a few hand
made ads on their own website”. The complainant pointed out that the party had indeed
received other coverage in the media, and questioned why the reporter chose to ignore this.
In terms of balance, the ABC maintained its findings in relation to the original complaint and
that aspect of the complaint was not upheld. In response to the new issue raised, the ABC
agreed that a factual accuracy breach had occurred in reporting that the advertisements were
“the only media” that the Democrats had had. Although the reporter had sought to ascertain
what coverage existed at the time, it was acknowledged that her search did not adequately
identify the range of stories published about the Democrats. An Editor’s Note was added to
the online transcript of the Lateline story, acknowledging the factual errors and apologising for
Asia Pacific Focus and The 7.30 Report– 16 November 2007 and 27 December 2007
Two audience members complained that the descriptions of David Hicks as a “home-grown
terrorist” and “convicted terrorist” were inaccurate.
In response, the ABC noted that David Hicks was charged by a Military Commission with
providing material support for terrorism. He pleaded guilty to that charge, and was formally
convicted and sentenced. It is therefore accurate to report that he confessed to supporting
terrorism or refer to him as a "convicted terrorism supporter”. However, it was not accurate to
refer to him as a “terrorist” or “convicted terrorist”, as these reports did.
7.00 News – 18 November 2007
A viewer registered a complaint in relation to graphics in the weather report. The maximum
Melbourne temperature was shown and stated as 31.7 degrees, yet on a following map it was
The ABC apologised for this error and the viewer was assured that the Melbourne news
graphics producers were reminded of the need for accuracy.
National Press Conference Coverage – 25 November 2007
A press conference was called at short notice on Sunday 25 November by then Prime
Minister elect Kevin Rudd. An audience member in Adelaide queried the accuracy of the
ABC’s claim (in a super on the screen) that images were broadcast “live”, as he had observed
the same images broadcast on another network approximately 30 minutes earlier.
The viewer was advised that Kevin Rudd's press conference was broadcast live along the
east coast and in Queensland on Sunday, but the broadcast went out on delay in the central
and west time zones. The ABC agreed that it should have made it clear to the audience that
they were watching a delayed broadcast and apologised that this did not happen.
7.00 News – 6 December 2007
A viewer complained about a news item on brumby numbers in the Snowy Mountains region.
The complainant alleged that the story was inaccurate, biased against the brumby and
employed sensationalist filming techniques.
The ABC agreed that the introduction to the report, which stated that the “brumby population
is out of control”, was incorrect. The complaint was upheld on one count of factual
inaccuracy. Other aspects raised by the complainant were not upheld.
7.00 News – 18 December 2007
An audience member lodged a complaint about ABC reporting on housing foreclosures. The
audience member was sceptical about the merits of research carried out by lobby groups and
argued that, in only providing percentages about changed foreclosure rates, the reports were
of little value in that they did not reveal the actual size of the problem.
The ABC agreed with the audience member. While the ABC believed that the trend was
worth reporting, the ABC acknowledged that a cautionary line should have been included in
the report to explain that the issue was not yet a major economic challenge in Australia. In
response to the viewer’s concern about the use of percentages, ABC News advised that the
absolute numbers were not available to the ABC on the day.
The 7.30 Report – 19 December 2007
In The 7.30 Report edition "Europe in 2007" broadcast on 19 December 2007, the Persian
Gulf was referred to as the Arabian Gulf, which an audience member pointed out was
The ABC apologised to the complainant for the error.
7.00 News – 22 December 2008
A viewer complained that a representative of the Coonabarabran Volunteer Rescue
Association was wrongly identified as a member of the State Emergency Service.
The ABC apologised for this error and assured the viewer that the matter was brought to the
7.00 News – 9 January 2008
A viewer complained about a weather report which stated that a 1983 dust storm was on the
day of Ash Wednesday. The complainant noted that the dust storm was a week earlier than
The ABC agreed that the weather presenter gave the wrong date for the dust storm.
7.00 News – 10 January 2008
An audience member expressed disappointment that the Finance report showed CBA shares
at a loss of 11 cents when in fact they had increased in value by 11 cents.
The ABC acknowledged that the graphic for the CBA was wrong: the "down arrow" used after
the share price figure should have been an "up arrow".
7.00 News and News Online – 13 January 2008 and 14 January 2008
A viewer complained about a Television News report which stated that forest operations were
responsible for declining honey bee numbers, without explaining how this was occurring or
providing any evidence. The complainant noted that an online news story posted the next day
was phrased differently but made a similar claim. It stated: “But the bee population is under
threat from overseas disease and pests, and the felling of leatherwood trees is removing the
bees’ best honey-making nectar.” The audience member pointed out that leatherwood areas
still exist, in part due to the efforts of forest managers.
The ABC agreed that the online report should not have stated as fact that forestry operations
were impacting on bee populations and this aspect of the complaint was upheld on the
grounds of factual inaccuracy. The Television News report also stated as fact that forestry
was impacting on bee populations, which could not be sustained by official figures and should
have been attributed to the bee industry.
Australia Network – News – 15 January 2008
A viewer pointed out that the business updates section of the Singapore News program had
the wrong data for the level of the Singapore Stock Market Index.
7.00 News – 19 and 20 January 2008
In describing the upcoming news during the broadcast on 19 January, it was stated that a
cricket match was played in Adelaide. An audience member pointed out that the match was
7.00 News – 22 January 2008
A viewer pointed out that the machinery at the bottom of a flooded coal mine was a dragline
and not a crane, as stated in the report.
Midday Report – 22 January 2008
A complaint was lodged about a reference to Auckland as New Zealand’s capital.
7.00 News – 21 and 22 January 2008
A viewer complained about a weather photo of Waukaringa which was wrongly said to be in
the Riverland. The viewer also noted that a weather photo used in a report on 22 January
showed a scene of Meningie, which was referred to as being on Lake Alexandrina. The
viewer pointed out that Meningie is on Lake Albert.
The ABC acknowledged the errors. The first was a production error and the second was the
result of incorrect location details provided by the photographer.
7.00 News – 22 January 2008
The introduction to the story “Tasmania stands alone in Stolen Generations compo scheme”
reported that Tasmanian Aborigines were once hunted for sport. An audience member
disputed the accuracy of this statement.
The ABC agreed that the statement had no factual basis. The online transcript of the report
was amended to remove the error and an Editor's Note attached to explain the change.
7.00 News – 23 January 2008
An audience member pointed out that the graphic used in the story on a soldier’s suicide
showed the Iraqi flag when it should have been the Afghani flag.
The ABC apologised for the error which was noticed as the graphic went to air and was then
7.00 News – 29 January 2008
In the Finance Report, it was stated that the VIX index, at 30%, was the highest it had ever
been. A viewer advised that the VIX went above 40% in September 2002 and has peaked
7.00 News – 31 January 2008
A complaint was received about the reference to asylum seekers as “illegal immigrants” in
The ABC agreed that the term “illegal immigrants” should not have been used.
7.00 News – 2 February 2008
An audience member noted that several weather reports stated a lower maximum
temperature for Adelaide than that provided on the Bureau of Meteorology website.
7.00 News – 9 February 2008
In referring to the performance of South Australian opening batsman Daniel Harris, the
newsreader used the term “carried his bat”. A viewer pointed out that this was incorrect as the
term specifically relates only to an opening batsman who has not been dismissed at the
The ABC agreed that the term "carried his bat" was used incorrectly.
The New Inventors – 13 February 2008
During a segment which examined the history and design of airbags, the narrator stated,
"Airbags have been so successful that they are now mandatory in all cars". A complaint was
received which disputed the accuracy of this statement. The complainant advised that the
relevant Australian Design Rules do not specifically require airbags, and they are therefore
The ABC acknowledged that the statement was inaccurate and apologised for the error.
7.00 News – 25 February 2008
An audience member pointed out that Daniel Day Lewis was Irish, not British as had been
The ABC acknowledged the mistake, in fact the actor has dual citizenship; British and Irish.
7.00 News – 26 February 2008
Three separate complaints were made in relation to a story on recent research by the
Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) titled "Research paper no. 41 Fertility and family
policy in Australia". All complainants argued (amongst other issues) that the reporter
incorrectly stated that fertility had declined to its lowest level and that births were not enough
The reporter stated: "The latest statistics from the Australian Institute of Family Studies show
fertility rates are at historically low levels" and ".not enough babies (are) being born to
replace people dying". The ABC acknowledged that the second part of the statement made
an incorrect claim and agreed that it would have been better for the reporter to use the
specific language contained in the research paper - that is, that the Total Fertility Rate (TFR)
is below the rate required for population replacement. This aspect of the viewers’ complaints
was upheld as a factual inaccuracy. Other aspects of the complaints were not upheld.
7.00 News – 27 February 2008
A viewer questioned the source of the claim that “depression is caused by a chemical
imbalance” in a story that was concerned with the type of depression for which drugs are
The report had pointed out that the anti-depressant drugs were prescribed for people with low
levels of serotonin. However, the ABC acknowledged that it would have been more accurate
to state that "some forms of depression" are linked to a chemical imbalance in the brain.
7.00 News – 29 February 2008
An audience member complained about a news item on the 30th anniversary of the Sydney
Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. The complainant noted that footage of a street march on the
morning of Saturday 24 June 1978 was wrongly used to show the first Mardi Gras, which had
The ABC acknowledged that the report used file footage of a demonstration as opposed to
the actual first Mardi Gras Parade. The viewer was informed that the reporter was attempting
to convey the different political atmosphere at the time. However, the ABC agreed that she
should have specifically referred to the demonstration during the day so that viewers were
clear that the footage used did not represent the first parade.
7.00 News – 7 March 2008
A viewer complained that a report about activists boarding a Japanese whaling ship
incorrectly referred to the activists as members of Greenpeace.
The ABC acknowledged the error which was picked up as the story went to air in the eastern
states. It was corrected for those bulletins broadcast in later time zones.
7.00 News – 12 March 2008
A viewer complained that a report dealing with the increased incidence of melanoma
incorrectly identified skin cancer expert Professor Rodney Sinclair as Dr Rod Stirling.
The ABC apologised to the viewer for the error.
7.00 News – 21 March 2008
Six complaints were received in relation to a news item regarding Good Friday. The
complainants noted that it was incorrect of the reporter to refer to people gathering on Good
Friday to celebrate the resurrection of Christ.
The ABC apologised for the error and expressed regret that it went to air. The audience
members were assured that the mistake was brought to the attention of the reporter and
Upheld complaints of factual inaccuracy regarding radio programs
There were 18 complaints upheld on the grounds of factual inaccuracy. One complaint,
upheld on three counts of factual inaccuracy, was also upheld as a breach of the impartiality
requirements and is detailed in the Bias/Balance section of this report.
Networked Local Radio – The World Today – 21 September 2007
Following an upheld complaint about an item which included CommSec’s analysis of the
economic viability of the pulp mill proposed for northern Tasmania, an Editor’s Note was
added to the online transcript. It clarified that the CommSec reports had been released in
2006 and added that “sources have confirmed that the information contained in these reports
was all current at the time of writing the story” (September 2007). This Note attracted a
further complaint, which alleged that the information had not in fact been current.
The ABC agreed that the Editor’s Note could mislead readers and amended the note.
ABC Radio National – Background Briefing – 14 October 2007
A complaint was received regarding a program on the meat and livestock industry, alleging
that the program was inaccurate, unbalanced, and favoured the views of animal activists.
The complaints of lack of balance and partiality were not upheld. However, the complaint was
upheld on one count of factual inaccuracy. The ABC acknowledged that the presenter’s
statement: “Earlier this year, Australia effectively ceased its trade of cattle and sheep to Egypt
because of the cruel practices” was incorrect. The presenter should have said that the trade
was halted “early last year” rather than “earlier this year”.
ABC NewsRadio – Health Minutes – 6 November 2007
A Health Minutes segment broadcast on 6 November 2007 stated: "The factors which aren't
associated with breast cancer include having had a pregnancy termination, smoking, silicone
implants, deodorant, stress and wearing bras”. A listener considered this to be a bold,
unequivocal statement and pointed to research in which smoking has been shown to be
The ABC agreed that either the reference to smoking should not have been included, or it
should have been made clear to listeners that it was not based on the National Breast Cancer
Centre's online calculator, unlike the rest of the statement. The complaint was upheld on the
grounds of factual inaccuracy. Further, two complaints handling breaches were recorded: the
program area responded directly to the complainant in the first instance and a response was
not provided with 60 days. The transcript of the story was amended to remove the reference
to smoking and an Editor’s Note was added to clarify the reason for the change.
720 ABC Perth – Mornings – 5 December 2007
In a segment about a woman who was ordered by a Magistrate to undergo a psychiatric
assessment in relation to charges for kidnapping a baby from King Edward Memorial Hospital,
it was stated that the court order was unable to proceed due to a lack of beds at the
Frankland Centre, the maximum-security facility on the Graylands Hospital campus. A listener
disputed the information and reported that the woman had been seen by mental health
professionals but was not referred to the Frankland Centre in the first instance.
The ABC acknowledged that the woman in question was not referred to the Frankland Centre
and had no contact with that Centre. The presenter’s comments reflected a newspaper report
in which a spokesperson “…said there were no beds available at the Franklin (sic) Centre, but
confirmed services were available at Bandyup prison." The ABC recognised that the
presenter’s comments should have attributed the source more clearly.
774 ABC Melbourne – News – 18 December 2007
A listener complained that Tocumwal was referred to as being in the north east of Victoria,
triple j – 19 December 2007
A listener complained about a triple j promotion for Newton's Playground Festival in Bathurst,
NSW. The promotion used a voice over with a German accent to represent Isaac Newton.
The complainant noted that Newton was English not German.
The ABC acknowledged the error. The promotion was removed from airplay in order to be re-
News Bulletin – 23 December 2007
A listener noted that the former Anglican Archbishop of Capetown was correctly referred to in
the introduction to a news item, but was then subsequently incorrectly referred to as "Mr
Tutu." The listener advised that Prelates do not lose their honorific title on retirement. The
listener also complained that another bulletin described Cardinal Pell as "the Archbishop of
Sydney", but subsequent reference was then made to “Mr" Pell.
Radio Australia – News – 31 December 2007
An audience member complained that the headline “Sri Lanka's military vows to increase
Tamil attacks” was misleading. The audience member noted that Sri Lanka does not direct its
The ABC agreed that the headline was inappropriate and could be misleading. The report
itself clearly stated ".military commanders have vowed to escalate attacks against Tamil
rebels.". The audience member was advised that the need to compress text to fit a limited
space for headlines inadvertently resulted in the error. The headline was amended on the
News Bulletin – 1 January 2008
A Victorian listener complained about a bulletin which contained Sydney news and weather
and argued that this indicated that the ABC was Sydney centric.
The ABC apologised for the error. The ABC confirmed that the 1.00pm radio news bulletin
broadcast in Melbourne on 1 January was produced in Sydney. This bulletin was
inadvertently put to air because a producer misread the schedule and switched to Sydney
instead of staying with the Melbourne transmission.
Radio National – AM – 4 January 2008
A complaint was made about a report which stated that oil had traded above $100 on the New
York Stock Exchange. The complainant pointed out that oil is traded on the Commodity
The ABC acknowledged the error, which had been corrected in later reporting.
774 ABC Melbourne – News Bulletin – 6 January 2008
In the 3pm and 4pm bulletins which referred to the possible drowning of a man in the Murray
River, Barooga was stated to be in northern Victoria rather than New South Wales.
The ABC acknowledged that the location of the town was incorrectly identified. The confusion
arose because Victorian Police were initially dealing with the drowning.
ABC NewsRadio – 9 January 2008
In a discussion on deceased jockey George Moore, the presenter stated that he was 54 and
had won races in the 1950s. A listener pointed out the age given was incorrect.
The ABC acknowledged that the presenter incorrectly stated George Moore's age in one
ABC Classic FM – Mornings – 31 January 2008
A listener complained that an incorrect statement was made by the presenter during the
introduction to an interview with Paul Ham. The presenter stated: "One of the images from
that conflict that seared into the public memory was the execution at close range of a prisoner
by a Viet Cong general." The listener pointed out that the execution depicted in the
photograph was at the hands of Vietnam's police chief, Lt. Colonel Nguyen Ngoc Loan.
The ABC acknowledged the error. An on-air correction was made on the program on 6
ABC Classic FM – News Bulletin – 11 February 2008
A complaint was received regarding the weather report at the end of the 8am Classic FM
news bulletin on Monday 11 February. The complainant noted that the Regional Bureau of
Meteorology's weather warning was read verbatim, except for the last line, referring to the
The ABC agreed that the Whitsunday region should have been included in the warnings and
apologised for the error. The ABC acknowledged it is important that it deliver information like
this, particularly during severe weather. Given that the omission was most likely the result of
timing constraints, the ABC considered that on this occasion, a more general severe weather
warning for the entire coast would have been more appropriate.
720 ABC Perth – News – 14 February 2008
A viewer complained about references to the late Bob Collins as an MP, pointing out that he
The ABC apologised for the error in the headlines of the midday news on 14 February. The
late Senator Bob Collins was correctly referred to in the story.
Upheld complaints of factual inaccuracy relating to ABC Online
There were 23 complaints upheld on the grounds of factual inaccuracy. One complaint has
been detailed in the Television section as both the television and online reports on the same
story contained a factual inaccuracy. One complaint, upheld on three counts of factual
inaccuracy, was also upheld as a breach of the impartiality requirements and is detailed in the
The Backyard – 2 October 2007
An online reader complained that a page on The Backyard site provided incorrect information
The ABC acknowledged the error and amended the web page to show the correct date.
News Online – 26 November 2007
A complaint was made in relation to an online report: “Democrats to lose party status after 30
years.” The report stated that Senator Lyn Allison had resigned and that the Democrats would
lose party status after June 2008. The complainant argued that both statements were
The ABC acknowledged that Senator Allison had stated she would remain Leader of the Party
until her term expired. The ABC also acknowledged that notwithstanding the result in the last
Federal election, the Australian Democrats remained a registered party with the Australian
Electoral Commission. The complaint was therefore upheld on two counts of factual
inaccuracy. The report was amended and an Editor’s Note added to explain the changes.
Countdown Spectacular 2 – 9 December 2007
The Television guide description of this program listed Supernaut as one of the bands
performing. A viewer complained that Supernaut were not featured on the program.
News Online – 18 December 2007
An online reader complained about the story “Don't try to beat border security system:
Evans”. The reader’s concern was with the two phrases: “Immigration Minister Senator Chris
Evans says people trying to enter Australia illegally by boat will be met with very firm border
security measures” and “Senator Evans says 16 Indonesians who arrived a few weeks ago
have already been sent back to their home country and illegal immigrants should take it as a
warning.” The online reader pointed out that, under Australian law, arrivals by boat for the
purposes of seeking asylum is not illegal.
The ABC reviewed the precise form of words used by the Minister and agreed that Senator
Evans spoke in terms of "unauthorised entry" or people who attempt to "enter Australia
without authorisation." The online reader was advised that the wording of the report was a
lapse. The story was changed and an Editor's Note attached to clarify the position.
News Online – 23 December 2007
An audience member pointed out that an incorrect photo was used to illustrate a story dealing
with a visit to Afghanistan by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
The ABC agreed that the photo was used incorrectly and apologised for the error. The photo
News Online – 30 December 2007
Two complainants objected to a news report which incorrectly referred to Benazir Bhutto as
The ABC apologised for the error. The complainants were advised that the error was the
result of unfortunate circumstances involving the use of an internal spell-checker and the
failure of the ABC’s production system at more or less the same time the offending story was
published. On publishing the story, the producer immediately realised what had happened but
due to the production system failure, was then unable to edit or correct the story until News Online was able to implement a manual change.
News Online – 2 and 3 January 2008
An audience member complained about errors in two ABC News Online reports of cricket
The ABC agreed that both stories contained factual errors. The errors were corrected and
brought to the attention of the sports desk and producers.
The Experiencers – 3 January 2008
Two audience members wrote separately to complain that the Experiencers program had
been described on the ABC website as a “serious scientific investigation of the realistic
possibility of life forms on other planets”. The program featured the work of Harvard Professor
John E Mack, who maintained an uncritical view of people he had interviewed who had
reported encounters with aliens. The complainants alleged that the program was entirely
lacking in scientific value and failed to present opposing perspectives. Both complainants
questioned the online description of the program, and one asked why the program had been
The ABC agreed that the online television guide was factually inaccurate in describing
Experiencers as “a serious scientific investigation”. The website was amended accordingly,
and the breach was acknowledged in responses to the two complainants. Although it was
also agreed that opposing perspectives had not been included in the program, this was not
found to breach the ABC’s editorial requirements. Experiencers was categorised as topical
and factual content, and as such the Code of Practice states that “a diversity of principal
relevant perspectives should be demonstrated across a network or platform in an appropriate
timeframe” (5.2), rather than necessarily within the confines of a single program. To meet this
editorial requirement, ABC Television is required in future programming to ensure that overall
impartiality is maintained on this topic by presenting other perspectives which question the
plausibility of such claims of paranormal phenomena. Grandstand – 13 January 2008
An online reader noted a discrepancy in the voting for ABC Basketballer of the Year on the
Grandstand website. One of the names listed against round 12, Bulleen versus Canberra,
The ABC acknowledged the error. Votes for rounds 12 and 13 of the Women’s National
Basketball League were sourced and collated into a single document to be published on the
website and the online reader was advised that, during the process, the name of a Basketball
Australia official who had supplied the votes for the round 12 game was inadvertently
included. The information was entered by someone unfamiliar with team rosters. The online
reader was also informed that all future votes would be double checked against team rosters;
firstly when sourced and again after collation before publication on the website. The votes
were corrected and a note was added to the website to explain the correction.
News Online – 28 January 2008
An online news reader wrote to complain that the headline “Bligh fast-tracks Toowoomba
recycled water plan” was inconsistent with the body of the article which indicated that there
was no waste water plan for Toowoomba being implemented, rather they were being
connected to the south east Queensland water grid.
The ABC advised the online reader that the Wivenhoe Dam would be receiving recycled
water at the completion of the Western Corridor later in the year. The story referred to plans
to connect Toowoomba - or more specifically Lake Cressbrook - to Lake Wivenhoe and the
grid, which meant in effect that Toowoomba would be receiving recycled water, albeit
indirectly. However, the ABC agreed that this should have been made clear in the body of the
The Pulse – 31 January 2008
A complaint was received regarding the article “Circumcision: back on the table” published on
The Pulse website on ABC Online on 31 January. The complainant argued that the article
was both factually inaccurate and biased.
The complaint was upheld on one count of factual inaccuracy. The ABC acknowledged that
the article included an inaccurate statistic in relation to the current rate of circumcision in the
United States. The article was subsequently amended to state: "In the US, around 60 per cent
of boys are circumcised." The inaccuracy was raised with the author of the article and the
Executive Producer of ABC Science Online. Other aspects of the complaint were not upheld.
ABC Website Contacts Page – 1 February 2008
An online reader pointed out that there were inaccuracies in some of the statistics which
reported annual percentages of complaints upheld. The calculations for three earlier years
were inconsistent with the data presented for 2006.
The ABC acknowledged the error and amended the statistics on the web page.
Online Television Guide – 11 February 2008
An audience member pointed out that the weekdays and dates for The Movie Show and triple j tv were incorrectly posted on the online Television guide.
The ABC acknowledged that the dates were incorrect and amended the website.
ABC News Online – 20 February 2008
An online news reader complained that the story “Perth sailor accused of killing granted strict
The ABC apologised for the error and the online report was amended.
ABC News Online – 20 February 2008
An online reader complained that the headline “Teenager charged with raping grandmother”
implied that the teenager was charged with raping his own grandmother.
The ABC agreed that the headline was misleading and subsequently changed it to: “Teenager
Bias and Balance
Nine complaints were upheld associated with issues of bias and balance.
AM – 7 November 2008
Two separate complaints (one in relation to the broadcast and one in relation to the online
story) were made in relation to the report "Palestinians struggle with surge in drug use". Both
complainants considered that the report contained aspects which were biased against Israel
and were anti-Semitic. In summary, the complainants alleged:
1. Statistics and claims given considerable status were not verified or at least
challenged from either the Israeli side or an independent source;
2. Israelis were reported to be creating drug addiction in Palestinians to further their
3. It was inferred that the Palestinians were “innocent” of their own social problems, or
that drug use is directly connected to the “occupation”;
4. The drug dealers were described as “nearly always Israelis”;
In addition, one of the complainants regarded the report as defamatory to Israel and the
As detailed below, the complaints were upheld on multiple grounds: lack of balance, factual
inaccuracies, and breach of complaint handling requirements. The ABC agreed that the report
1. The statement: "The drug dealers are nearly always Israelis, sometimes working with
Palestinians" was incorrect. The statement should have said "The drug dealers are
nearly always Arab Israelis, sometimes working with Palestinians." It was
acknowledged that the omission of the descriptor "Arab" was a significant oversight
and changed the emphasis of this segment of the report.
2. The statistics quoted by the reporter of ". Up to 60,000 Palestinians in the West
Bank use drugs, with 11,000 being addicts" was an inaccurate interpretation of the
figures provided in the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) report, which
3. The statement: "The research backs up what Imad Schweiki says. Young
Palestinians are getting their drugs in areas where they're in contact with Israelis,
either in Jerusalem itself or around the giant wall, known as the separation barrier,
between Israel and the West bank" was incorrect. The PCBS report identified the
suburbs with the highest number of drug users, but it did not identify those drug users
as Palestinians, Arab Israeli or Jewish Israeli.
It was noted that on two occasions the report stated that Israeli authorities strongly denied
that they were "turning a blind eye to the trafficking of drugs to Palestinians". However, taking
into account the seriousness of the claims made by the drug workers in this report, the ABC
agreed that every reasonable effort should have been made by the reporter to seek
substantive comment or an interview with the relevant Israeli authorities. If the Israeli
authorities declined an interview, this should have been clearly indicated in the report.
It was considered that the factual inaccuracies, together with the lack of substantive comment
from the Israeli authorities, resulted in a broadcast that did not meet the requirement for
balance. Whilst it was acknowledged that through the lack of balance, the broadcast gave
undue emphasis to the Palestinian viewpoint, the ABC did not agree that this constituted
vilification of the Jewish people, or that the report was anti-Semitic. The broadcast stated
Israel's denial of the claims, the point was made that the Palestinian Authority was criticised in
the PCBS report, and, importantly, the claims made by the drug workers were not reported as
fact; they were presented as viewpoints.
Both complaints were also upheld as breaches of complaints handling procedures as a
substantive response was not provided to the complainants within 60 days.
The AM online transcript was amended to correct the factual inaccuracies identified, the audio
of the report was removed from the website and an Editor's Note was appended to the
transcript. AM also broadcast an on-air apology at the end of the program on Thursday,
February 28, acknowledging the inaccuracies and lack of balance, and listeners were directed
to the corrected transcript of November 7, 2007.
ABC Radio National – AM – 13 November 2007
A complainant alleged bias in the report “Six dead during Arafat memorial”.
The complainant argued that, in quoting an official from Fatah but not Hamas, the report
suggested that Hamas was responsible for the violence when Fatah was more likely to have
The ABC agreed that Hamas' views should have been sought and, if possible, included in the
story. The complaint was upheld as a failure to achieve the requirements for balance. An
Editor's Note was added to the transcript indicating that Hamas in turn accused Fatah of
702 ABC Sydney – Mornings – 28 November 2007
A listener complained that the presenter informed a talkback caller that she would cut him off
because she did not want his views expressed on the program. The complainant argued that
the caller’s views were a legitimate, legal point of view.
The ABC agreed that the presenter’s response to the talkback caller was not in keeping with
ABC Editorial Policies, which require presenters to be impartial when dealing with news and
current affairs content. They make it clear that "The public expression of personal opinions of
staff has no place in news and current affairs content."
The 7.30 Report – 11 December 2007
Complaints were received from four viewers in response to a report about the connection
between osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ) and bisphosphonates, a class of drugs used in the
treatment of osteoporosis and cancer. The story’s thesis was that ONJ, a debilitating and
disfiguring deterioration of the jaw bone, may be caused by bisphosphonates, and that drug
companies and doctors were not adequately warning patients of this, or of the alternative
treatments. The main concerns addressed by the complainants can be summarised as
• The program failed to adequately discriminate between cancer patients and
osteoporosis patients, both of whom may be prescribed bisphosphonates, but in
different doses and for different reasons. The lack of differentiation could mislead
viewers into thinking osteoporosis patients were at equally high risk of ONJ, whereas
in fact the lower doses they take put them at lower risk. Secondly, the discussion of
calcium supplements as an alternative treatment could also mislead viewers, as this
is not a viable alternative in the case of cancer patients.
• The benefits of bisphosphonates in prevention of further fracturing were not
• The program stated that bisphosphonates were listed by the Howard Government on
the PBS in December 2006, whereas in fact they have been listed for the last 10
• The figure of 500 ONJ patients in Australia was felt to be presented as fact whereas it
was only a rough estimate. Similarly the statement made by one interviewee that 1 in
10 people taking a tablet could be affected was alleged to be inaccurate.
• A report from the task force of the American Society of Bone and Mineral Research
was inaccurately quoted as stating that “ONJ is rapidly evolving”, whereas it actually
stated that “information on incidence of ONJ is rapidly evolving”.
• Various other figures and findings that presented an alternative view (eg, of the
unlikelihood of ONJ occurring or of positive outcomes with bisphosphonates) were
• The promotion of calcium and vitamin D supplements overstated their effectiveness.
It was also alleged that an interviewee, Professor Philip Sambrook, had been
misrepresented as saying that calcium and vitamin D supplements are effective in
• The full interview with Professor Sambrook was not included in the program, nor was
it available for download from the website, even though interviews with other
• In terms of bias, complainants pointed to emotive language used in relation to ONJ,
such as “ghastly side effect”. The implication of a drug company cover-up was also
believed to be unjustified as product information does include ONJ warnings. The
program’s associated imagery included advertising material from unrelated drug
companies. The presentation of Professor Sambrook as a “chief advocate of the use
of bisphosphonates”, without questioning the agenda of other interviews was also
• Generally speaking, it was felt that the alarmist nature of the story could stop some
people taking their medication, and hence result in harm.
Upon review it was agreed that aspects of the program constituted breaches of the ABC’s
Editorial Policies, and each of the four complaints was upheld on four separate grounds. The
complaints were upheld on three counts of factual inaccuracy: the implication that the bisphosphonate Fosamax was first listed on the PBS in December
2006 was determined to be incorrect - in fact, the Government simply extended the
the story incorrectly quoted the American Society of Bone and Mineral Research and finally, the report lacked sufficient context because it did not explain that osteoporosis
patients who are treated with smaller dosages of the drugs are less at risk.
Additionally, the failure to explain the different risk levels facing cancer patients and
osteoporosis patients taking bisphosphonates was upheld as a breach of impartiality
standards. By not making the distinction, it was agreed that the report overstated the potential
risks to osteoporosis sufferers, and unduly favoured the view that bisphosphonates present a
significant risk to all patients taking the drugs. Other aspects of the complaints, although
noted, were not upheld as breaches of the ABC’s Editorial Policies. For example, it was
considered that the debated figures had been presented as estimates based on the opinion of
expert participants in the program. Also, the absence of Professor Sambrook’s full interview
on the website was not considered to reflect bias on the part of the program’s producers, and
subsequent to the receipt of complaints it was made available.
An Editor’s Note was added to the online transcript of the original program to highlight the
distinction between cancer patients and osteoperosis patients and notify readers of the follow-
up material available. A subsequent edition of The 7.30 Report, again featuring Professor
Sambrook, addressed many of the concerns highlighted by the complainants, such as the
distinction between cancer and osteoporosis patients.
ABC Radio National – News Bulletin – 28 December 2007
A listener complained about the order in which news items were presented on the 6am
bulletin broadcast on 28 December 2007. The assassination of Benazir Bhutto was
announced after news of an Australian yacht race.
The ABC agreed that an error of judgement was made by not leading with the assassination
Failure to Disclose One complaint was upheld for a failure to disclose. ABC Radio National – Late Night Live – 13 February 2008
A complaint was made which alleged imbalance through what the listener considered was a
personal attack on former Prime Minister John Howard by a presenter in his introduction to
Late Night Live. The listener described the introduction as “…steeped in the hate that he has
always nurtured, not only for the former Prime Minister but for anything tending towards the
Conservative right wing view of the World. It was literally flowing in torrents from his mouth.”
The audience member went on to more generally allege left wing bias in the ABC and
complain that there is too much “cheap talk back radio”.
The listener was advised that Late Night Live is categorised as opinion content under ABC
Editorial Policies. As such, the presenter is able to take an editorial perspective and express
viewpoints on subjects such as the former Prime Minister John Howard. The ABC was
satisfied that the presenter’s comments were consistent with the editorial guidelines for
opinion content and the substantive complaint was not upheld. However, opinion content is
required to be signposted to audiences in advance. The ABC agreed that the edition of Late Night Live broadcast on 13 February and repeated on 14 February was in breach of this
A complaints handling breach was also found as the presenter responded directly to the
Incidental Advertising Three complaints were upheld on the grounds of incidental advertising. 702 ABC Sydney - Weekends – 2 February 2008
A listener complained that the gardening program mentioned specific products made under
The ABC agreed that the mentions of particular products were not in keeping with its Editorial
ABC Radio National – The Spirit of Things – 3 February 2008
A complaint was made that the program The Spirit of Things, broadcast on 3 February and
focussing on Chinese New Year, contained repeated advertising of guest Kylie Kwong’s
restaurant. The listener commented that the presenter praised certain dishes sold at the
restaurant and provided details of the menu.
The ABC agreed that the numerous references during the interview to the name of Ms
Kwong's restaurant were unnecessary and could be perceived as promoting this particular
business. These references were upheld as a breach of Editorial Policies, which prohibit the
broadcasting of repeated references to trading names which can amount to providing publicity
for commercial organisations or products. The transcript of this program was amended to
remove all references to the name of Ms Kwong's restaurant. It was, however, considered
entirely appropriate for Ms Kwong to appear on The Spirit of Things to discuss Chinese New
Year. As an Australian-born Chinese, Ms Kwong was considered to exemplify much about
what is particular to the experience of Chinese New Year in Australia, and was able to
discuss the festival in general, the festivities in Sydney, the food associated with Chinese
New Year, and her personal experiences of the festival. As food plays a significant part in this
religious and cultural festival, the ABC considered that interviewing Ms Kwong within her
restaurant provided suitable audio ambience for the radio feature, and descriptions of the food
and its preparation were appropriate to the editorial aims of the program.
The Backyard – 3 March 2008
An audience member complained that a link at the end of an article directed online readers to
The ABC agreed that the link contravened its Editorial Polices and the story was removed
from the website. The online reader was assured that safeguards had been developed to
prevent similar inappropriate links since the story was published in 2002.
Unfair Treatment Four complaints were upheld that alleged unfair treatment. 666 ABC Canberra – Grandstand – 3 January 2008
During the Test Cricket coverage, a commentator read out a joke submitted by a listener,
which relied for its humour on an imitation of a Japanese person’s English speaking accent.
Two audience members wrote to complain about the segment, believing that the joke was
Upon review the ABC agreed that the material in question was not in keeping with its Editorial
Policies which require ABC presenters to treat all sections of society with respect, avoid the
unnecessary use of prejudicial content, and avoid discrimination. The ABC apologised for the
offence caused and assured the complainants that ABC Radio had raised the matter with the
7.00 News – 23 January 2008
An audience member complained that a 22 year old woman was referred to as a “girl” in a
The ABC agreed that the woman should not have been referred to as a "girl". The audience
member was advised that the usage did not comply with the policies of ABC News, and the
mistake was pointed out to the reporter.
Other Local Radio – Statewide Afternoons – 5 March 2008
A listener noted his appreciation at hearing Mandarin spoken without an interpreter during the
news bulletin. However, the listener complained that after the news, the presenter made fun
of the Mandarin language by pretending to speak it and joking “that someone would be
around to the ABC in 15 minutes with steak and black bean sauce, lemon chicken and special
fried rice”. The complainant considered this distasteful.
After reviewing the segment, the ABC agreed that it breached Editorial Policies, which require
ABC presenters to treat all sections of society with respect, avoid the unnecessary use of
prejudicial content, and avoid discrimination. The ABC apologised for any offence caused and
assured the listener that the matter was raised with the presenter concerned.
Matters of taste and standards Inappropriate content There were 21 upheld complaints regarding inappropriate content such as violence, coarse
language, offence to religious feeling and poor taste.
97.3FM ABC Illawarra – Mornings – 21 November 2007
A listener complained about the language used in the short story Hydraulics, by Christine
Keighery, which was broadcast as part of the ABC Radio Short Story Project.
Ten finalists in the 2007 ABC Radio Short Story Project were featured on ABC Illawarra,
including some which contained coarse language and sexual themes. The listener was
advised that the ABC’s Code of Practice permits such content, provided it is not gratuitous
and is justified in the context of news, current affairs, fiction, documentary, dramatisation,
comedy or song lyrics. In this instance, the ABC considered that for each of the stories which
contained coarse language or sexual themes, the content in question was strongly justified by
the context of fictional short stories. However, the Code of Practice also states that, where
appropriate, the audience will be given advance notice about such content. Unfortunately, in
the case of the story Hydraulics, ABC Illawarra failed to issue a warning in relation to the
strong coarse language included in the story. The ABC apologised to the listener for this
breach of its Code of Practice. The audience member was advised that the story was
unwittingly broadcast without a warning as the CD containing the reading of Hydraulics
arrived at the studio without its cover, which contained the instruction that a language warning
needed to be issued before the story was broadcast
ABC News Online – 25 November 2005
An audience member complained about the use of the term "millionaire" to describe Liberal
The ABC agreed that the term was of questionable relevance to the story to which the
complainant referred and the reference was removed from that story.
Compass Promotion – 2 December 2007
An audience member objected to coarse language used in a promotion for the second
episode of the Compass series “The Monastery”.
The ABC acknowledged that the promotion was in breach of the ABC's Code of Practice,
which states that "Program Promotions should be scheduled so as to be consistent with the
nature of surrounding content". The audience member was advised that the matter was
raised with the Marketing & Promotions Department and with ABC Television management.
The ABC apologised for any offence caused.
612 ABC Brisbane – Breakfast – 11 December 2007
A listener registered a complaint about the song "Kylie's Arse" by the Clip Clop Club, played
on the morning of 11 December. The listener considered that the song was inappropriate for
public radio as, amongst other offensive content, the chorus to the song contained the word
The ABC acknowledged that, while the presenter did broadcast a language warning prior to
the song being played, the song was not appropriate for the 612 ABC Brisbane Breakfast
program. The ABC advised the listener that the matter was raised with the Breakfast team
ABC2 Promotion – 12 December 2007
A viewer complained about the content of an ABC2 station ident which depicted a bare arm
with a needle nearby and the ABC2 '2' symbol moving under the skin. The viewer considered
that it suggested an acceptance of intravenous drug use within the community and by the
The ABC reviewed the station ident and agreed that it was irresponsible and inappropriate.
The viewer was informed that the matter was brought to the attention of ABC Television
management and the Head of Marketing & Promotions, and was also assured that the ident
would not be broadcast again. The ABC apologised to the viewer for any concern that was
The 7.30 Report – 27 December 2007
A story which examined the taser gun debate contained images and sounds which three
viewers considered traumatising. The viewers complained that a warning was not broadcast
The ABC agreed that a warning should have been given to the audience as the sounds and
images of people being targeted by taser guns were disturbing. The ABC apologised to the
The 7.30 Report – 3 January 2008
A complaint was made regarding a segment which included commentary by Professor Barry
Rubin, the Director of Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Centre and the
Editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and which featured
in an end-of-year retrospective about events in the Middle East. The complainant claimed a
level of familiarity with Professor Rubin’s views and alleged that those views were in contrast
to the ones he appeared to express on The7.30 Report. Specifically, the complainant
referred to an assertion that peace and a Palestinian State were impossible. He argued that
the editing made it appear that Professor Rubin was expressing the view that Israel's
imposition of "a crippling economic blockade on Gaza" was responsible for the impossibility of
The ABC agreed that the editing of the item could lead the audience to believe that Professor
Rubin's comments about the impossibility of peace referred to the effect of Israel's actions. It
was apparent from the record of the interview that this was not the case. Professor Rubin
was referring directly to the electoral victory of Hamas and the ineffectiveness of Fatah in
countering what he saw as the transformation of the Palestinian movement. While the error
was not considered to be in any way deliberate, it was agreed that a regrettable
misjudgement had occurred in the editing of the initial report. An Editor's Note was attached
to the story acknowledging the error and correcting the record. The complainant was advised
that a reminder was issued to the program team and the reporter by the Head of National
Programs, emphasising the need for care to be taken in representing the views of those
Television News Bulletin – 8 January 2007
The 10pm News bulletin contained footage of a man kneeling in a street who was then shot in
the head by another man. Five audience members considered that this portrayal of violence
was excessive, and that it should at least have been preceded by a warning.
The ABC agreed that the footage should not have been shown and apologised. Occasionally,
the ABC deems it necessary to show violent footage if it is unavoidable but such footage
Networked Local Radio – Test Cricket Coverage – 27 January 2008
A listener considered that comments made during cricket coverage included an inappropriate
The listener was advised that the commentator made the comments with the best intention as
he is involved in sponsoring young African sports men and women in order to provide them
with the opportunity to reach their sporting potential. However, the ABC agreed that a request
for sponsorship during the coverage was not appropriate. The commentator was reminded
about this and of the ABC's provisions within the Editorial Policies regarding fundraising.
702 ABC Sydney Website – 15 February 2007
An online reader conducted a search of the term “Chinese New Year” which returned a page
from the previous year that intended to provide readers with some general background
information about Chinese New Year and to encourage them to attempt pronunciation of
some key Mandarin and Cantonese phrases. The online reader complained that Pinyin, the
method of representing Chinese for foreigners, was inaccurately used on the page.
The ABC acknowledged that it should be using Pinyin as the standard accepted system for
anglicising Mandarin and agreed that the romanisation of the Mandarin phrases was not
correct Pinyin. The ABC apologised to the audience member for the offence caused by the
content and removed the page from the 702 ABC Sydney site.
The Genius of Photography – 9 March 2008
Five audience members wrote separately to complain that the episode of The Genius of Photography screened on Sunday 9 March at 3pm contained content inappropriate to the
timeslot. Two of the complainants described the offending still photographs as pornographic
including reference to close ups of genitals and images of nude people in sexual positions.
Two of the complainants also noted that the photographic depictions of drug use were
inappropriate to the timeslot. The main concerns related to such images and references
shown in a timeslot where children and teenagers were likely to be watching.
The program had been broadcast with a classification of PG. On review of the program, the
ABC agreed that it should have been classified M and recommended only for people aged 15
years and over. If repeated, the program will be classified M and will be broadcast in an
Standards of Interviewing One complaint was upheld in this category. Other Local Radio – Mornings – 17 October 2007
A complainant alleged that the Lord Mayor of Wollongong City Council, Alex Darling, was not
treated with due respect in an interview on the Mornings program, specifically that he was “cut
off abruptly, disrespectfully and impolitely”.
The ABC agreed that the presenter’s comments towards the end of the interview did not treat
the Lord Mayor with respect and courtesy. The interview was terminated abruptly after the
Lord Mayor could not answer several questions about the Council’s new Code of Conduct.
This complaint was upheld as a breach of civility requirements.
Corporate / Infrastructure Complaints handling
During the three-month period there were twelve complaints upheld on matters relating to
complaints handling. Of these, six complaints were upheld solely because aspects of the
ABC’s complaint handling procedures were not correctly followed; however, in each of these
cases, the substantive matter raised by the complainant was not upheld. Six complaints were
upheld on other grounds, and have been described in the previous sections. In four cases,
breaches occurred when staff responded directly to complaints about editorial issues, instead
of referring the matters to Audience & Consumer Affairs for investigation. Eight complaints
were upheld because a response was not provided to the complainant within the 60 day
Summary of investigations completed by the Complaints Review Executive
During the period 1 January to 31 March 2008, the Complaints Review Executive (CRE) dealt
with 21 requests for reviews of 20 separate matters after the complainants expressed
dissatisfaction with responses they had received from Audience and Consumer Affairs.
A viewer sought a review of her concerns about the “Cyprus – Hot Property” segment
broadcast on Foreign Correspondent on 1 May 2007, and the synopsis of the program on the
website. The complainant’s concerns related to references to “Northern Cyprus”, “Northern
Cyprus Government” and “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” which she considered to be
inaccurate as they had no basis in international law.
The CRE’s view was that the segment reported on legal matters related to particular property
transactions rather than the broader legal issues raised by the complainant. The CRE found
that the de facto situation in Cyprus is widely acknowledged as being different to the in
principle legal definition. The CRE concluded that describing “northern” and “southern”
Cyprus as such reflected the geographic facts. Similarly, referring to Greek and Turkish
people described the backgrounds of the majority of people in the relevant sectors. The
complaint was not upheld.
A complaint was made about a lack of coverage of criticism of the media in an
address to military reporters and editors in Washington on 12 October 2007 by Lieutenant
General Ricardo Sanchez (retired). The audience member claimed that the ABC was corrupt
because the criticism of the media was not reported.
The Alternate CRE found that the major portion of General Sanchez’s speech was related to
US operations in Iraq and that critical comments about the media were directed at the US
media, as indicated by references to “the military”, “the press corps” and “our country”. The
complainant was advised that the comments about the handling and progress of the
campaign in Iraq were of more relevance and interest to an Australian audience than criticism
of the US media coverage. The complaint was not upheld.
Two viewers, who were offended by the “Jesus Face” sketch broadcast by The Chasers’ War on Everything on 31 October and repeated on 2 November 2007, regarded the
The aim of the sketch was to comment on the way some people react to hoax divine
apparitions, and particularly those who attempt to profit from people’s belief in such
The CRE considered the sketch against Editorial Policies for performance content as it was
satire. The Policies specify that staff need to consider the potential for satire to harm groups
and individuals. If, for instance, a satirical piece incited violence against a particular group
this could amount to potential to harm. In this context the CRE did not consider that the
segment had potential to cause harm. The complaint was not upheld.
A viewer complained about an interview on The 7.30 Report on 29 October 2007 with
then Prime Minister John Howard. The complaint related to questions the presenter asked
The Alternate CRE considered the content against editorial requirements for accuracy in
news and current affairs content. The review found that there was a discrepancy between
what the complainant asserted was said (“on average 30 year lows”) and the words actually
used by the presenter (“at 30 year lows”). It was also found that the presenter had made an
error when asking about the rise in interest rates since the point in time that Mr Howard had
made an election promise on the issue, in 2004. The question should have referred to the
time in 2001 when interest rates were at a 30-year low. In the final exchange about interest
rates, however, the presenter corrected the earlier mistake when he stated that “… interest
rates have gone up 2.25 per cent more than the level you promised to keep them at”. The
error in the initial question was not regarded as significant, nor did the Prime Minister
disagree with the figures presented. The CRE therefore considered that no breach had
occurred. The complaint was not upheld.
complainant asked for a review of his complaint about an ABC News Online item.
The item, posted on 6 December 2007, was about a Tasmanian Parliament Business Scrutiny
Committee hearing about Aurora Energy. This included questions about Aurora’s
abandonment of a broadband over powerlines (BPL) trial in late November 2007. The
complainant claimed that the report omitted detailed technical information explaining why the
trial was abandoned and did not accurately report a comment by the Minister for Energy.
The CRE found that the issue of concern to the complainant was mentioned on eight of the 63
pages of Hansard records of the hearing. However in relation to the other issues discussed,
the CRE did not consider that the technical matters were newsworthy. The CRE also found
that the News Online accurately reported what the Energy Minister said when he mentioned
that he had received 99 complaints from one person. The complaint was not upheld.
A complainant sought a review of his complaint about what he considered to be a
biased report on AM broadcast on 13 November 2007. The item was about six deaths which
occurred during a rally commemorating the third anniversary of the death of Yassser Arafat.
The complainant questioned which faction was responsible for the violence, why there was a
quote from a Fatah official but not an official from Hamas, why possible Israeli involvement
had not been mentioned, and what Hamas has to gain from civil war with Fatah.
One aspect of the complaint had initially been upheld when investigated by Audience &
Consumer Affairs, as detailed earlier in this report. The ABC acknowledged that the
requirements for balance in news and current affairs content had not been met. Prior to the
request being forwarded to the Complaints Review Executive the complainant had been
advised that an Editor’s Note had been added to the transcript – “It should be noted that
Hamas has, in turn, accused Fatah of starting the violence.”
The CRE found that the report was about a current event rather than analysis of the history
leading up to the event and the fact that the item did not include information which the
complainant sees as relevant was not direct evidence of bias. The CRE considered that it
would have been operationally difficult for the reporter to gather and verify information about
casualties and which faction they belonged to. The CRE also considered there was limited
time in the brief report for AM to deal with the question about what Hamas had to gain from
civil war with Fatah or to investigate whether Israel was involved. The complaint was not
A request for CRE review was received concerning a complaint about an ABC News Online story posted on 25 November, updated on 13 December 2007. The complainant
questioned the relevance of the word “millionaire” being used to describe Malcolm Turnbull in
the story about Mr Turnbull’s bid for the position of Leader of the Opposition. He suggested
that the description was used in a partial way, in an effort to point out that Mr Turnbull was
Within four days of receiving the complaint the word “millionaire” had been removed from the
ABC News Online report and the complainant had been advised by Audience and Consumer
The CRE found that removal of the word was prompt and appropriate. It was noted that while
the descriptor may be accurate, its use in that item did not provide relevant context. However
the CRE did not accept the complainant’s argument that the use of the word was a form of
partial reporting. The complaint was not upheld.
An audience member submitted a request for review of his complaint about lack of
acknowledgements to his complaints and the timeliness of responses from Audience and
Consumer Affairs. The complainant wrote that he had not received acknowledgements or
responses to seven complaints submitted on or before 28 December and quoted reference
numbers which are inserted in automatic responses acknowledging contacts with ABC
Audience and Consumer Affairs. Audience and Consumer Affairs had pointed out to the
complainant that his citing of these reference numbers indicated that he had indeed received
The CRE checked the process applied to the complainant’s seven complaints and found that
all were acknowledged by email or responded to substantively within 1 to 55 days. While
Editorial Policy 13.3.1 details the ABC’s aim to respond to complaints within 28 days, the
Broadcasting Services Act imposes a mandatory requirement to respond within 60 days. The
CRE considered that policy 13.2.1 carries more weight than 13.3.1. As the complainant was
sent substantive responses to the seven complaints within 60 days, the complaint was not
An audience member sought review of his complaint about a report on AM broadcast
on 5 December 2007 reporting on President Bush’s denial that concerns about Iran being a
nuclear threat were exaggerated. The audience member suggested that more background
information and a detailed analysis should have been included in the report.
The CRE found that the subject of the complaint was about a current event rather than
analysis of the wider issue of US relations with Iran. The fact that the item did not include
information which the complainant considered relevant was not direct evidence of bias in the
content produced. The two-minute item included a range of principal relevant viewpoints.
The complaint was not upheld.
A listener requested a review of her complaint about a segment on triple j’s Summer Nights on 19 December 2007. The listener considered that a comedy piece comparing
current fashion with that worn by inmates of Auschwitz was offensive.
The CRE noted that the intent of the comment in a “comedy rant” was to point to things that
should not be remembered in a nostalgic way. The review concluded that while some people
may have been offended by the observations about Holocaust survivors and Auschwitz the
brief comment was a passing reference which would not have offended triple j’s target
audience to a substantial degree. The complaint was not upheld.
An audience member complained about an ABC News Online item titled “Cancer
patient’s death sparks Gaza blockade anger”.
The CRE found the use of the word “blockade” was appropriate as it was a description used
by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and international news bureaux. The complaint was
A complaint was lodged about a preview of the Annapolis peace conference
broadcast on The Religion Report on 21 November 2007. The complainant was also
concerned about a comment by the presenter at the end of the segment about Israeli staff in
The CRE found that the segment was focused on differing Israeli views about the conference,
rather than Palestinian views. The review also found that description of staff in the control
room was a comment on discussions between a producer and engineer about the topic. The
complaint was not upheld.
A complaint was received regarding a story on The 7.30Report “China beefs up
clean energy drive”, broadcast on 12 December 2007. The complainant suggested the ABC
has an ideological bias against nuclear power.
The Alternate CRE found that the story concentrated on renewable energy (namely wind
power) and cleaner coal technology, and presented the principal relevant views relating to
these forms of energy. The complaint was not upheld.
A listener complained about an item on 702 ABC Sydney Breakfast, 14 December
2007. The item was about how radio promotions are produced and included a discussion
The CRE found that the majority of the segment highlighted mistakes announcers make. The
CRE concluded that the segment would not have offended the target audience to a
substantial degree. The complaint was not upheld.
member complained about a brief report on NewsRadio on 29
December 2007, regarding the killing of two off-duty Israeli soldiers and one Palestinian. The
audience member considered that the story was misleading.
The Alternate CRE concluded that the item was clearly sourced and presented concisely
without comment or opinion. The complaint was not upheld.
A complaint was made in relation to 774 ABC Melbourne Summer Breakfast, on 3
December 2007, when two presenters with comedy backgrounds discussed how non-
The CRE found that the segment was not a serious analysis of religious issues. He did not
consider that the presenters were disparaging of Jews and concluded that the target audience
would not have been offended to a substantial degree. The complaint was not upheld.
A complaint was received about a story on The 7.30Report on 13 December 2007
which focussed on Iran’s nuclear capability. The complainant considered it to be biased
against Iran and that it did not include information about Israel’s nuclear capabilities.
The CRE found the report focused on reaction to a US report about Iran’s nuclear intentions
and capabilities, and that over time the ABC has broadcast and published material about
Israel’s nuclear activities. The complaint was not upheld.
An audience member complained about an ABC News Online story published on 15
December 2007 that did not include the description of an alleged assailant provided by NSW
The CRE considered it appropriate for the ABC not to use the description as journalists are
required to be circumspect in the use of labels. The complaint was not upheld.
An audience member lodged a complaint about not being given the opportunity to
appear on ABC Radio during the 2007 Federal Election campaign. The complainant was an
The CRE found that the complainant had not provided enough detail of what information
would be provided in an interview so that the producer could assess its newsworthiness. It
was found that the editorial decision was not one of bias against independent candidates.
The complaint was not upheld.
An online reader complained about an ABC News Online report on 31 January 2008
about the effect on Palestinians of the Israeli blockade of Gaza.
The Alternate CRE found that it is not possible to include the level of historical detail
suggested by the complainant in brief reports. It was found that the reporter provided
appropriate context and background. The complaint was not upheld.
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