ACMA Investigation Report 2976–
broadcast by ABN on 1 October 20123The presenter concluded the segment by quoting a statement made by WIN TV that thebroadcast was ‘accurate, fair and balanced and presented the views of the medicalpractitioners and of the choice groups’. In response, the presenter commented:
Medical practitioners – choice groups. One opinion as valid as the other. It’s a classicexample of what many – especially despairing scientists – call ‘false balance’ in themedia. As the British Medical Journal put it last year in an editorial about the “debate”in the UK:…the media’s insistence on giving equal weight to both the views of the anti-vaccine camp and to the overwhelming body of scientific evidence ...madepeople think that scientists themselves were divided over the safety of thevaccine, when they were not.
— British Medical Journal, When balance is bias, Christmas Edition, 2011
To put it bluntly, there’s evidence, and there’s bulldust. It’s a journalist’s job todistinguish between them, not to sit on the fence and bleat ‘balance’, especially whenpeople’s health is at risk. That’s my view.
A transcript of the segment is at Attachment A.
This investigation is based on submissions from the complainant and the licensee and a copyof the broadcast provided to the ACMA by the licensee. Other sources used have beenidentified where relevant.In assessing content against the Code, the ACMA considers the meaning conveyed by therelevant material broadcast. This is assessed according to the understanding of an ‘ordinary,reasonable’ viewer.Australian courts have considered an ‘ordinary, reasonable reader' (or listener or viewer) tobe:
A person of fair average intelligence, who is neither perverse, nor morbid orsuspicious of mind, nor avid for scandal. That person does not live in an ivory tower,but can and does read between the lines in the light of that person’s generalknowledge and experience of worldly affairs
The ACMA examines what the ‘ordinary, reasonable viewer’ would have understood theSegment to have conveyed. It considers the natural, ordinary meaning of the language,context, tenor, tone and inferences that may be drawn, and in the case of factual material,relevant omissions (if any).Once this test has been applied to ascertain the meaning of the broadcast material, it is forthe ACMA to determine whether there has been a breach of the Code.
Amalgamated Television Services Pty Limited v Marsden
(1998) 43 NSWLR 158 at 164–167.