Over 85 per cent of broadcasting complaints made to Australia’s media regulator are never even being considered, under the so-called “co—regulatory system” which favours the interests of the nation’s media giants.
In the 2019-20 financial year, only 13% of the 1,326 complaints that viewers and listeners made to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) were assessed at all by the regulator – and just 4% were actually “investigated”.
Analysis of ACMA data by The Klaxon also reveals that complaints against Australian broadcasters are surging – up 24% to 1,326 complaints in 2019-20 (the latest published data) – while at the same time investigations launched by ACMA have slumped.
In 2019-20 ACMA started just 54 investigations, which was down 28% on the 74 investigations it launched the year before.
ACMA CEO and deputy chair Creina Chapman, taxpayer salary $460,000-plus a year. Source: ACMA.
ACMA cost taxpayers $107.2 million in the 2019-20 financial year, its annual report shows.
It had 435 employees who collectively received $57.8m in wages and benefits in the year, including nine “key management personnel” who shared in remuneration of $2.9m.
ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin, who has been in the role since October 2017, was paid $601,567 in 2019-20.
Its CEO and deputy chair, Creina Chapman, was paid $462,849 in the year.
Chapman was appointed to a five-year term as ACMA CEO in June 2018, under then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and then Communications Minister Mitch Fifield.
Before that, Chapman “held a number of senior executive and strategic adviser roles” at “commercial media companies Southern Cross Austereo, News Corp, Publishing & Broadcasting Limited and the Nine Network”, according to her bio.
Chapman was also formerly a “senior policy advisor” to federal members of parliament, including Richard Alston, who was Federal Communications Minister from 1996 to 2003 under the Howard Government, and former Liberal Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey.
The reason so few viewer and listener complaints to ACMA are ever even assessed/considered by the regulator is that ACMA has implemented a system which heavily favours the media providers – the alleged wrongdoers – over the public, the listeners and viewers making the complaints.
Once it receives a complaint about a broadcaster, ACMA doesn’t assess the complaint, instead it directs the viewer or listener to contact the broadcaster itself.
If the viewer/listener does then approach the broadcaster, the broadcaster has 60 days to respond.
Only if the complainant approaches ACMA again – for a second time, and at least two-plus months after the program aired – will ACMA decide whether or not it will investigate.
In 2019-20, ACMA received 1,326 complaints, of which 179 (13%) were subsequently taken to the broadcaster in question – and then back again to ACMA – by the viewers or listeners.
Of those 179 complaints that came back a second time to ACMA, ACMA decided it would not investigate 125 complaints, and it would investigate 54 of the complaints (or 4% of the 1,326 complaints originally received by ACMA).
The Klaxon’s scoop on Monday. Picture of ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin, taxpayer salary of $600,000-plus a year. Source: The Klaxon.
Of those 54 cases that ACMA decided to investigate, in 32 cases (60%) ACMA found that no breaches had occurred.
Breaches of broadcasting rules and regulations were found to have occurred in the remaining 22 cases.
Those 22 cases represented 1.7% of the 1,326 complaints made to ACMA in the 2019-20 financial year.
ACMA is in the international spotlight after internet giant You Tube two weeks ago, on July 28, placed a seven-day ban on Sky News Australia uploading content for spreading Covid-19 misinformation.
That included denying the existence of Covid-19, or spruiking discredited Covid-19 “remedies”, including hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin.
“Specifically, we don’t allow content that denies the existence of Covid-19 or that encourages people to use hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin to treat or prevent the virus. We do allow for videos that have sufficient countervailing context, which the violative videos did not provide,” Guardian Australia quoted a You Tube spokesperson as saying.
One of the most popular videos on the channel is one featuring Sky News host, shock-jock Alan Jones, which is titled “Australians must know the truth – this virus is not a pandemic”.
Sky News posted the video to You Tube at the height of the pandemic last year, Guardian Australia reported.
Governance experts, senior media industry players, and political figures have questioned why ACMA had taken no action to stop Sky News spreading Covid-19 misinformation, and why policing Sky News had instead fallen to a foreign internet platform.
The ongoing Senate inquiry into media diversity in Australia has called on Sky News, ACMA and You Tube to give evidence, with its next hearing this Friday.
In recent days Sky News has been accused of quietly deleting numerous Covid-19 segments from the internet, while failing to issue corrections or any explanations.
On Monday The Klaxon exclusively revealed that ACMA had reviewed/considered just one of 23 complaints it had received regarding Sky News Australia’s Covid-19 coverage since the start of last year.
All of the complaints to ACMA were “referred to the broadcaster (Sky) in the first instance”.
Just one of the 23 complainants had so far come back to ACMA a second time.
ACMA investigated that matter and determined no breaches had occurred.
ACMA has long faced criticism for failing to ensure media standards such as “accuracy and impartiality” in “news and current affairs” are enforced or abided by, and has been accused of falling to “regulatory capture”.
Regulatory capture is where regulatory agencies come to be dominated by the industries they are responsible for regulating.
ACMA publishes “quarterly” reports detailing the number of broadcasting complaints it has “assessed” and whether or not it has decided to investigate those complaints.
The Klaxon also revealed on Monday that ACMA had not published these “quarterly” reports – called “Action on content complaints and investigations” – since the July-September quarter last year.
This publication also on Monday revealed that ACMA had stopped releasing the “action on content complaints and investigations” information in its annual reports altogether.
In the latest annual report, ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin said “previously published appendixes on our programs and content and broadcasting investigations” had been removed to ensure annual reports, “continued to meet legislated requirements and publication principles” and “where, possible, minimised duplication with information available on our website”.
The changes mean that material is no longer in one place, but users must navigate different sections of ACMA’s website to access the material.
Unlike ACMA’s annual reports, which can be relatively easily located and remain on ACMA’s website, other data is located in various places across ACMA’s website and is typically removed from the site after two or three years.
Help us get the truth out from as little as $10/month.
The need for fearless, independent media has never been greater. Journalism is on its knees – and the media landscape is riddled with vested interests. Please consider subscribing for as little as $10 a month to help us keep holding the powerful to account.