ABC Australia Updates Editorial Policy for Public Broadcasting

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ABC has updated its editorial policies. The policy emphasizes the principles of accuracy, corrections and impartiality. (Credit : ABC)

Public broadcasting company, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. (ABC), has released new editorial guidelines.

Independent journalism website Crikey described the new editorial policies as “the product of a comprehensive shake-up” and commented that the book, which used to be a “large and wordy” 170 pages is now a more compact, “22 page booklet.”

ABC editorial staff must have “an awareness of the required standards,” the guidelines state (see here).

The policy emphasizes the principles of accuracy, corrections and impartiality.  While the accuracy standard isn’t required for “expressions of opinion,” journalists are to make “reasonable effort…to ensure accuracy in all fact-based content.”

“A commitment to accuracy includes a willingness to correct errors and clarify ambiguous or otherwise misleading information,” according to the guidelines.

Accuracy guidelines bar journalists from misrepresenting content or indicating bias.  And, journalists aren’t allowed to “state or imply that any perspective is the editorial opinion of the ABC.  The ABC stakes no editorial stance other than its commitment to fundamental democratic principles…”

As many ethics codes do, ABC’s editorial policy called on proper source attribution, careful granting of anonymity and avoidance of plagiarism. The code also advises journalists to give subjects of accusations a chance to respond.  Journalists, are also told not to use secret recording or misrepresentation to get content unless :

“a. justified in the public interest and the material cannot reasonably be obtained by any other means; or
“b. consent is obtained from the subject or identities are effectively obscured; or
“c. the deception is integral to an artistic work and the potential for harm is taken into consideration.”

According to the guidelines, “privacy is necessary to human dignity…but privacy is not absolute” and privacy may be breached if it’s in the public interest.

The guidelines call on journalists to advises”consider whether it is appropriate to obtain the consent of both the child/young persona and the parent/guardian”  before using them in an interview or “content produced or commissioned by the ABC”

When it comes to violence, sexual activity, drug use, nudity, or coarse language, journalists are advised to use discretion and infrequently.  And, if reporting on “violence, tragedy or trauma,” journalists are cautioned to use “extreme sensitivity.

The code also provides information on how to submit a complaint over ABC’s coverage.

See the whole policy here.

StinkyJournalism is writing to ABC for more information and will update with any response.

Quick Guide to Updated Policy Documents

ABC Editorial Policies & ABC Code of Practice, as of April 11, 2011

* Editorial Policies (as at 11 April 2011)
* Television Program Classification – associated standard (as at 11 April 2011)
* Code of Practice (as at 11 April 2011)


* Glossary (as at 11 April 2011)
* Accuracy: News, current affairs and factual content (issued 11 April 2011)
* Factual drama (issued 11 April 2011)
* Differentiating ‘analysis’ (issued 11 April 2011)
* Attribution / anonymity of sources (issued 11 April 2011)
* Secret recording devices in news, current affairs and other factual content (issued 11 April 2011)
* Use in news reports of pictures from social networking sites (issued 11 April 2011)
* Coarse or offensive language on radio (issued 11 April 2011)
* Children and young people: Managing their participation online (issued 11 April 2011)
* Children and young people: Managing their participation in broadcast (issued 11 April 2011)
* Credits (issued 11 April 2011)

Complaints Procedures

* Complaint Handling Procedures (as at 11 April 2011)
* How to make a Code Complaint – see the back page of the Code of Practice

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ABC Australia Updates Editorial Policy for Public Broadcasting

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