The Nine Networks 60 Minutes program is in strife with the Australian Communications and Media Authority who found that they had breached regulatory safeguards for reports about suicide. in relation to a segment. They also found that Nine failed to adequately warn viewers about the potentially distressing material prior to the segment.
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The finding arose from a complaint that a segment on the program concerning the suicides of two teenagers, broadcast in April 2007, did not comply with the requirements for reports about suicide, set out in the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice (the code).
ACMA found that the segment contained a detailed description of the suicide method, and was not straightforward in its presentation of the facts. ACMA also found that while the segment contained a warning, it did not precede the segment, as the code requires.
‘Reports about suicide pose complex issues for the media,’ said Chris Chapman, ACMA Chairman. ‘While there are legitimate public interest reasons for covering certain incidents in news and current affairs programs, extreme care must be taken to ensure that stories of this nature do not inadvertently encourage vulnerable members of the community to imitate the behaviour.
‘For this reason, in addition to requiring that there be a legitimate public interest reasons for broadcasting such a report, the code also imposes restrictions on the way the subject matter is treated.’
Nine has advised ACMA that it will incorporate the findings in its regular training program for staff. As well as asking Nine to ensure that any future reports about suicide comply with the code, ACMA has also recommended to Nine that relevant help line numbers be provided as part of such reports so viewers have access to support if required. ACMA will be encouraging all broadcasters to consider such an approach to ensure that vulnerable viewers are made aware of help available to them when incidents of suicide are reported.