2GB breaches accuracy requirement

The ACMA has found that Harbour Radio Pty Ltd, licensee of 2GB, breached the Commercial Radio Codes of Practice 2013 (the Codes).

The ACMA’s investigation concerned the accuracy of statements made by 2GB presenter, Mr Alan Jones, about the rate of global warming in a report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the IPCC).

The investigation found that the licensee did not use reasonable efforts to ensure that factual statements made by Mr Jones were reasonably supportable as being accurate.

The ACMA also found that a purported correction later in the program by Mr Jones was not adequate and appropriate in all the circumstances and so did not cure the breach.

The segment was aired on 24 September 2013 on the Alan Jones Breakfast Show and, while the investigation report was finalised last year, publication was delayed after Harbour Radio challenged in the Federal Court the ACMA’s power to investigate and its actual findings.

 The Federal Court’s 23 April 2015 ruling included confirmation that the ACMA has an independent discretion to commence ‘own motion’ investigations under section 170 of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992, and affirmed the ACMA’s approach to factual accuracy and corrections under the Codes.

The ACMA expects that the licensee (indeed all commercial radio licensees) will be guided by the Federal Court’s endorsement of the ACMA’s views on what is an ‘adequate and appropriate’ correction ‘in all the circumstances’.

In this investigation:

  • 2GB conceded that the comments broadcast were inaccurate but submitted they were based on an article from mainstream media (The Australian) and that the inaccuracy was corrected by Mr Jones within two hours of the initial comments.
  • The ACMA noted that the article had been corrected in The Australian three days prior to the broadcast and, in any event, there was a range of credible material that threw doubt on the original article from The Australian.
  • Although Mr Jones purported to later correct his comments, the ‘correction’ was not adequate and appropriate in all the circumstances.
  • While the ‘correction’ was flagged as a correction and made promptly, it lacked clarity. In particular, the ‘correction’:
    • included additional material which was confusing and undermined the significance of the correction
    • was not clearly linked to the incorrect statements.

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