Australia’s Channel Nine apologized recently for a Nov. 7, 2012 report titled “All-Asian Mall.” Australian broadcast regulator ACMA called for the apology after receiving two complaints that it was offensive.
Channel Nine described its 5-minute, 6-second-long program “All-Asian Mall” as “the battle between Aussie shopkeepers and the centre management who are kicking them out to make way for businesses that directly target the suburb’s Asian population.”
Calling the mall “the Great Mall of China,” Channel Nine went on to claim that the mall’s owners were giving it “an Asian makeover” and that “overnight, Aussie shopkeepers who have had their businesses here for more than a decade have been told that they have to move.” In place would be “an Asian supermarket, an Asian butcher, an Asian fish shop and an Asian fruit shop,” Channel Nine claimed.
The program reported that “locals who shop at the mall” thought it was “only a matter of time before the entire suburb becomes an Asian enclave.”
ACMA’s report concluded that the program violated three “clauses of the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice 2010.” The three violated clauses included airing inaccurate information, “portrayal in a negative light by gratuitous emphasis” and “intense dislike and serious contempt on the grounds of ethnic origin.” However, ACMA ruled that it didn’t “create public panic with the report.”
ACMA added that Channel 9 “portrayed [Asians] in a negative light by gratuitous emphasis on ethnic origins.” As evidence, ACMA pointed to Channel 9’s “framing of the issue” and the number of times ethnicity was mentioned. By the numbers, ACMA reported “the term ‘Asian’ was used 27 times,” “the term ‘Australian’ was used 12 times,” and “a dichotomy was drawn between ‘Asian’ and ‘Australian.”
For example, ACMA argued:
“Language and visuals were used to engage the audience on an emotional level, and in particular to provoke feelings that ‘Australians’ (defined by the segment’s editorial framing as people not of Asian ethnic origins) are under threat from people of Asian ethnic origins.”
ACMA’s investigation ruled that the program was inaccurate because “there was no plan to make the mall’s lower level ‘almost all Asian.” While there was an intention to have “Asian specialty shops to occupy a substantive portion of the lower level of the mall,” it wasn’t “‘almost all.'”
Further, ACMA reported that stores that were leaving the mall were not closed to make way for Asian stores but because the businesses weren’t doing well. “The centre management was bringing new retailers in because a number of stores had closed down; it was not forcing the closure of certain stores in order to bring new retailers in, as conveyed by the broadcast,” ACMA wrote.
Regarding the descriptions of the new stores, ACAMA also found fault with Channel Nine. “The ACMA is of the view that the broadcast did not contain any factual material about the nationality of the new retailers,” ACMA wrote.
Because of the ruling, Channel Nine aired an apology. Channel 9 provided iMediaEthics with the text of the Sept. 13 on-air statement:
“We would like to acknowledge that the ACMA has determined that our segment entitled ‘All Asian Mall’ was found to have breached the Code of Practice in three areas.
“The ACMA has made a number of findings in their report.
“A copy of the report can be found on the ACMA website which is shown on your screen.
“A Current Affair apologises for any offence caused with this segment and Nine accepts the report’s findings.”
Video of the apology is below.
Channel Nine unpublished the report in question, according to Australia’s SBS Radio. When iMediaEthics asked about this, Channel Nine denied the report was unpublished. However, a search of Channel Nine’s website didn’t produce the report. We’ve asked for a link and will update with any response.
ACMA chairman Chris Chapman told SBS Radio that the case helps show the public how ACMA works and how to hold the media accountable. Chapman said, “I think it sends a message to listeners and viewers that they are empowered. They do have the opportunity to complain and there are consequences to actions.”
‘First Time a Commercial Broadcaster’ Agreed to Air Apology because of ACMA
According to Australian media website Mumbrella, “this is the first time a commercial broadcaster has accepted the ACMA’s recommendation to issue an on-air statement acknowledging the breach.” While there has been at least one other cases of ACMA calling for on-air statements, the station hasn’t agreed.
Earlier this year, ACMA called for WIN Television to air a statement after ACMA found it “breached two provisions” of the code with a report on measles vaccination. However, WIN said it wouldn’t make the statement but could post “a link on its website to the ACMA’s finding.”
ACMA’s press release about the ruling notes that the organization “cannot ‘fine’ or ‘prosecute’ a broadcaster for breaching a code, or direct it to do any particular thing (such as broadcast a report of the ACMA’s findings).”
Separately, radio station FIVEaa apologized on air in June after ACMA called for “an on-air apology” for the station’s reports about “asylum seekers.”
ACMA declined to comment on the record to iMediaEthics about the ruling.