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The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has updated its guidelines for handling privacy issues in media. This is the first time the national broadcast regulator’s guidelines have been updated in five years.

“Generally, the codes protect against the broadcast without consent, of material that: relates to a person’s personal or private affairs or private life for example, by disclosing their personal information; or invades a person’s privacy or intrudes into their private life—for example, by intruding upon their seclusion; unless it is in the public interest to broadcast the material,” the guidelines read.

One important clarification concerns social media and children, the Guardian reported, noting that journalists are warned about accidentally invading the privacy of children.

‘The ACMA developed the guidelines to assist broadcasters’ understanding and awareness of their privacy obligations under the various broadcasting codes of practice,” acting ACMA Chairman, Richard Bean said in a press release.  “First issued in 2005, the guidelines were last revised in 2011.”

ACMA pointed iMediaEthics to the Guardian‘s story, which reported “ACMA has told the networks to be careful not to expose children – even if their own parents have chosen to put their images online on their public social media accounts.”

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If someone gives their consent, then news outlets aren’t invading privacy, the guidelines state, and parents or guardians have to give the OK if something could invade a child’s privacy.

Public figures still have an expectation of privacy but are “open to a greater level of scrutiny,” the guidelines explain.

The guidelines remind that “not all matters that interest the public are in the public interest.”

The updated guidelines also include several case studies where regulators investigated privacy matters, including its investigation ruling that it was invasive for 2DayFM to air its now-infamous prank phone call with Kate Middleton’s hospital.

  • In one case, the Australian Broadcasting Authority ruled it was an invasion of privacy without any public interest for a current affairs program to show footage of so-called exorcisms conducted by a woman in her home.
  • In a second, the ABA ruled it was invasive for a radio program to air a call where a woman identified another woman who she said was having an affair with her husband.
  • Another case study featured ACMA ruling against a current affairs program for invading the privacy of a child. The 12-year-old was shown “smoking, swearing and fighting” at a park when he skipped school. Even though the mother consented to an interview about her son skipping school, she didn’t OK the program recording her son at the park.
  • In one case, ACMA ruled it was OK and in the public interest for a news outlet to show undercover video of a politician leaving a gay sex club.
  • ACMA held a public consultation earlier this summer into its revisions.

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Australian Broadcasting Regulator updates Privacy Guidelines

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