Jones not ‘factually accurate’: ACMA

2GB has been forced to review it’s compliance processes across all of its major production teams, concerning factual accuracy and the presentation of ‘significant viewpoints’ after ACMA found it in breach of the Commercial Radio Codes of Practice 2010.

The ACMA says that it will discuss with 2GB what further undertakings may be required once the licensee has completed its review.The ACMA found 2GB breached the codes by failing to use reasonable efforts to ensure that factual material was reasonably supportable as being accurate.

The material in question was broadcast during The Alan Jones Breakfast Show when Mr Jones stated that ‘human beings produce 0.001 per cent of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere’.

“The Authority found that this was presented as a statement of fact, it was not substantiated by the licensee and there was no evidence that reasonable efforts had been taken to ensure that it was reasonably supportable as being accurate—as required under the codes,” said ACMA Chairman Chris Chapman.

“Reasonable efforts” is more than merely providing production resources, researchers and writers,” he said.

The ACMA also found that 2GB had, on several occasions, failed to comply with the codes’ complaints-handling provisions.

In a media release, ACMA stated:

In broad terms, the findings were made following a series of investigations into a number of complaints made against 2GB concerning:

a segment of The Alan Jones Breakfast Show broadcast on 15 March 2011 (dealing with factual accuracy and significant viewpoints) [2597, 2614 & 2636]

segments of The Alan Jones Breakfast Show broadcast on 29 and 30 June 2011 and 6, 11, and 12 July (dealing with incitement of violence, incitement of hatred or contempt, generally accepted standards of decency and significant viewpoints) [2674 & 2717]

a segment of The Chris Smith Afternoon Show broadcast on 11 and 17 March 2011 (dealing with significant viewpoints) [2639].

The ACMA found no breach of the ‘significant viewpoints’ obligation in the codes. Even though each of the particular 2GB programs offered only a single (critical) viewpoint on the Australian Government’s carbon tax proposal, the evidence from 2GB showed that it had presented different viewpoints on this controversial issue across similar programs in its schedule. This is sufficient for the licensee to meet its code obligation.

In two investigations [2674 & 2717], the ACMA found that while Mr Jones made very disrespectful and disparaging comments about the Prime Minister and others in public office (for example, ‘Put [them] in the same chaff bag … and throw them both out to sea’), they did not amount to a breach of the prohibitions on:

         broadcasting indecent material

         inciting violence or brutality

         inciting intense dislike, serious contempt or severe ridicule on the grounds of gender or disability.

The current 2GB compliance review will also address the ‘accuracy’ and ‘significant viewpoints’ breaches earlier found in Investigation 2540 concerning the native vegetation laws, which occurred under an earlier version of the codes. The review is intended to highlight systemic issues within 2GB’s compliance processes so that any such issues can be appropriately addressed.

“These were wide-ranging and unusually complex investigations. We were responding to multiple complaints concerning eight different 2GB broadcasts and against eight clauses of the codes, with 2GB’s submissions requiring a further consideration of an additional 12 broadcasts,” Mr Chapman said.