How the Australian TV Code of Practice creates Media Trolls and #Socialmedia response #ACA9

On December 1st, 2015,  the updated Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice (2015)Opens in a new tab. came into play. And oh boy did it come into play. From two little lines, two little changes…

3.4.2 Nothing in this Section 3 requires a Licensee to allocate equal time to different points of view, or to include every aspect of a person’s viewpoint, nor does it preclude a critical examination of or comment on a controversial issue as part of a fair report on a matter of public interest.
3.4.3 Current Affairs Programs are not required to be impartial and may take a particular stance on issues.

… we got Pauline Hanson racist/creedist crap about Muslims (yes I know Islam is a religion not a race, but the term still applies.).

maligning a part of the Australian population as “entertainment”. 

and now, this week, A Current Affair etc  are pushing the “should women on Centrelink welfare be put on contraceptives?”.

NOTE to self: posing crappy political solutions as a question makes it alright. Not.

Social media is responding as expected. They have been trolled well and truly by A Current Affair and are running polls on whether ACA should be shut down. PS Don’t feed the trolls… 

It’s a shame that ACMA are so useless -and they are toothless, no doubt about it. They will support 3.4.2 and ignore 3.2.1:

3.2.1 In broadcasting a news or Current Affairs Program, a Licensee must:
a) not include material which, in the reasonable opinion of the Licensee, is likely to seriously distress or seriously offend a substantial number of viewers, having regard to the likely audience of the Program, unless there is a public interest reason to do so; and

You can’t distress or offend Australians… just, y’know the Muslim ones or the welfare ones or the gay ones or the … any group that is fair game.

NOTE: Media Watch warned of the impending troll-fest that the Australian TV Rules 2015 2016Opens in a new tab. changes would create back in November. They were right!


Solution media vs Problem media. Problem media is part of the problem. 

On one hand I like being able to see in comments just how nutty/racist/unfair/prejudiced/discriminatory the average Australian is. Reminds me to correct the people who think others think “like them” and that everything is A-Ok.

  • Q Oh surely that doesn’t still happen in this country? You are blowing it out of proportion.
  • A Have you ever even seen the comments on newspaper and TV show sites?

The problem is, newspaper and TV show media channels,  Facebook Pages, Twitter and so on have ONE goal and that is to incite. To troll. To get as many people het up and talking about things as much as possible.  And while we should be talking we should also be resolving, healing and educating. Not pain and angst and offense as entertainment.

On the other hand, these shows make the opinions. If you suggest a dodgy political solution, promote it on your “current affair” channels, it becomes the norm. Politicians are vindicated as they represent the “will of the people”. Opposing views need not apply see 3.4.2 above.  Solution journalism vs Problem media. And a newspoll on forcing contraceptives on the underemployed ain’t solving nothing. If ACA changed their agenda and started educating people about issues would that be better? e.g. women end up unemployed if their employer suspects they want to become pregnant. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. But do we want media setting the moral agenda for Australians? I for one don’t (the biggest, nastiest, twistiest trolls on Twitter are journalists, for a start). Still, debates, problem resolving, both sides of the story help educate and that can only be a good thing. Shame it was the one taken out of the code…

What TV shows are “solution” shows? I’m thinking podcasts mostly, some of the panel shows. Any others? Media reborn needs a new approach, not slack Industry code of practice.  That’s my take on it.

I recommend you follow: Amanda Meade in The Guardian Amanda MeadeOpens in a new tab. and on Twitter @meadeaOpens in a new tab. and also ABC Media Watch @abcmediawatchOpens in a new tab.. Also TVTonightOpens in a new tab. and stay away from ACA, Today Tonight et al.

ADDENDUM: I received a call from ACMA & they asked me to amend “changes” to “clarifications” in the code. In other words, the code was changed to add clarification that current affairs have never had to be show both sides (the shows used to be more evenhanded when I was a kid, until they weren’t, I guess). Also to note that Media Watch linked to the ACMA response on the “both sides of the story issue”. And asked me to  – quel irony – show both sides by linking to the ACMA response to Media Watch. Which I will cos I’m better than #ACA9 (plus, I only skimmed the Media Watch stuff after I had more or less finished this article). Odd that I and Media Watch and others all thought that originally current affairs were impartial in their reporting and have fallen down since. Who would’ve thunk it? Anyway here’s ACMA response to MediaWatch on TV code.  BTW why don’t current affairs have to be impartial? And don’t say “social media”. Everything we the people learned about media creation, voice/tone and distribution, we learned from mainstream media. Lowest common denominator wins I guess.

PS just bloody awful Alex GirleOpens in a new tab. story – if the code abdicates rights to protect us from a$$hat journalism like this, who will protect us? And don’t say the people want what the people want. Numbers of viewers are dropping, plus regulations and codes are never about popularity bullshit but levelling a kind of rule of law…

Laurel Papworth

Named by Forbes™ Magazine in the Top 50 Social Media Influencers globally, named Head of Industry, Social Media (Marketing Magazine™) and in the Power150 Media bloggers (AdAge™). CERT IV Training and Assessment certified trainer (Diplomas and Certificates etc) Adult Education. Laurel has manager Facebook Pages for Junior Masterchef, Idol, Big Brother etc. and have consulted on private online communities for banks Westpac, not for profits UNHCR & governments in SE Asia. Lecturer, social media, University of Sydney for 10 years and Laurel has 11,000 online students. Laurel Papworth personally connects to 6 million followers online and has taught around 100,000 people in the last 10 years how to be social media managers.

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