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ABC TV - ACMA Investigation Report 2671

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					Investigation Report No. 2671
File No.               ACMA2011/1548

Broadcaster            ABC TV

Station                TV24 Queensland

Type of Service        National Broadcaster

Name of Program        Midday Report

Date of Broadcast      12 August 2011

Relevant Code          Clauses 2.1 of the ABC Code of Practice 2011

Date Finalised         7 November 2011

Decision               No breach of clause 2.1 (accuracy)




ACMA Investigation Report – Midday Report broadcast by TV24 on 12 August 2011.
The complaint
On 26 August 2011, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) received a
complaint regarding Midday Report broadcast by the ABC on 12 August 2011.

The complainant alleged that the program contained a factual inaccuracy about Tour de
France winner Cadel Evans.

The complainant was not satisfied with the response of the ABC and referred the matter to
                           1
the ACMA for investigation. The complaint has been investigated in accordance with clause
2.1 [accuracy] of the ABC Code of Practice 2011 (the Code).

The program
Midday Report is broadcast at 12:00pm on weekdays and contains local, national and
international news.
On 14 August 2011, the program was broadcast live from Mr Evans‟ Tour de France victory
parade in Melbourne. The program ran for approximately 40 minutes and included the
following statement by an ABC reporter:

          Cadel Evans [...] who dedicated most of his life, certainly his adult life, to cycling
          and winning the race.


Assessment
The assessment is based on:

         a recording of the program, provided by the broadcaster;

         the complainant‟s submission;

         the broadcaster‟s submission; and

         publicly available information, the source of which is identified where relevant.

Ordinary, reasonable viewer
In assessing content against the Code, the ACMA considers the meaning conveyed by the
relevant material. This is assessed according to the understanding of an „ordinary, reasonable
viewer‟.
Australian courts have considered an „ordinary, reasonable viewer‟ to be:
    A person of fair average intelligence, who is neither perverse, nor morbid or suspicious 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 general knowledge and experience of worldly
           2
    affairs.

The ACMA asks what the ordinary, reasonable viewer would have understood the broadcast
to have conveyed. In doing so, the ACMA considers the natural, ordinary meaning of the



1
  Section 151 of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 sets out the ACMA‟s role in investigating complaints about
    ABC‟s compliance with the ABC Code of Practice.
2
  Amalgamated Television Services Pty Limited v Marsden (1998) 43 NSWLR 158 at 164–167




ACMA Investigation Report – Midday Report broadcast by TV24 on 12 August 2011.                                   2
language, context, tenor, tone, 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, the
ACMA will determine whether the material has breached the Code.

Issue 1: factual accuracy
Relevant Code Provision

      2. Accuracy

                 2.1        Make reasonable efforts to ensure that material facts are
                            accurate and presented in context.

The considerations which the ACMA generally applies in determining whether or not a
statement complained of was compliant with the ABC‟s obligations to make reasonable efforts
to ensure that material facts are accurate and presented in context are set out at Attachment
A.

Complainant’s submission:
The complainant submitted to the ABC:

    [...]

    [The presenter] made the assertion that Cadel Evans had dedicated the majority of his adult
    life to winning the Tour de France, this is incorrect.

    Cadel started his career as a mountain biker, with his first senior victory being in the under
    19 XC Australian Mountain Bike Championship in 1994. It was not until after the 2000
    Olympics that he was convinced to change to road racing and he did not compete in the
    Tour de France until 2005.

    [...] I would have thought the least the ABC could have done was to ensure that their
    “journalist” [...] was given a rundown of Cadel‟s biography so as to be able to accurately
    report on his career.

    [...]

    The assertion made that Cadel had dedicated the majority of his adult life to winning the
    Tour de France is incorrect and [the presenter] has failed to comply with [the Code] by
    making this false assertion and showing that he was not fully conversant in the subject he
    was reporting.

    [...]


Broadcaster’s submission:
The ABC‟s Audience and Consumer Affairs responded to the complainant:

    [...] The actual words which are of concern to you were, “Cadel Evans [...] who dedicated
    most of his life, certainly his adult life, to cycling and winning the race.” In response to your
    concerns, ABC News have made the point that the reporter was ad-libbing through some
    sound problems during the Tour de France parade.




ACMA Investigation Report – Midday Report broadcast by TV24 on 12 August 2011.                          3
        On review, Audience and Consumer Affairs is satisfied that this statement is not in
        contravention of the ABC‟s accuracy standards. It does not state as fact that Cadel Evens
        dedicated his life to winning the Tour de France, but rather “cycling and winning the race”.
        Further, we do not consider, given the overall focus of the coverage, that this statement
        would materially mislead this audience.

         [...].

Finding
The ABC did not breach clause 2.1 of the ABC Code of Practice 2011.

Reasons
The complainant‟s concern relates to the accuracy of the statement below made by the ABC
reporter:

                Cadel Evans [...] who dedicated most of his life, certainly his adult life, to cycling
                and winning the race.

The complainant asserts that the statement is not accurate because:

        Cadel started his career as a mountain biker, with his first senior victory being in the
        under 19 XC Australian Mountain Bike Championship in 1994. It was not until after the
        2000 Olympics that he was convinced to change to road racing and he did not compete
        in the Tour de France until 2005.

        [...]

        The assertion that Cadel had dedicated the majority of his adult life to winning the Tour
        de France is incorrect [...].

For clarification purposes, the ACMA notes that the reporter stated that Mr Evans “dedicated
most of his life, certainly his adult life, to cycling and winning the race”.
The relevant code requirement is that the ABC make „reasonable efforts‟ to ensure that
„material facts‟ are accurate and in context. The ACMA understands that the primary purpose
of the program was to broadcast the celebrations held in Melbourne in honour of Mr Evans‟
success in the Tour de France competition, rather than to present an in-depth biographical
piece. In the context of a 40 minute program and given the program‟s primary purpose, there
is some question about whether the material complained about is a material fact.
Notwithstanding this, the ACMA has assessed the material against the code and notes that
following the Tour de France final presentation on the Champs- Elysees, Mr Evans stated
that:

                As a young child we aspire to a lot of things in life and watching the Tour de France
                in 1991 and seeing (Miguel) Indurain tear everyone to pieces planted a small seed
                                                     3
                in my head that continued to grow.



3
    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/sport/cadel-evans-a-tour-champion-13-years-in-the-making/story-fn8sc2wz-
       1226101066654, http://www.foxsports.com.au/other-sports/tour-de-france/cadel-evans-seals-historic-first-tour-
       de-france-victory-after-21st-and-final-stage-of-the-race/story-e6frf5hu-1226101014888 and
       http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-07-25/cadel-lost-for-words/2808854 accessed 25 October 2011.




ACMA Investigation Report – Midday Report broadcast by TV24 on 12 August 2011.                                         4
Mr Evans also stated on the Tour de France official website that:

            It was in 1991 that the idea first crossed my mind, watching the Tour de France for
                                                                              4
            the first time and seeing Miguel Indurain blow the field apart.

The comments made by Mr Evans indicate that it was not inaccurate to say that he had
commenced thinking about competing and perhaps winning the Tour de France as early as
1991.
The ACMA further notes that during the Parliamentary Debate in the House of
Representatives on 21 September 2001, Mr Simpkin, Federal Member for Cowan, honoured
Mr Evan‟s for his lifetime commitment to cycling:

            It was, however, not until 2001 that [Mr Evans] finally transitioned completely to
            road racing. In 1998 and 1999, he had won the world cup in mountain biking. We
            should also remember that he came seventh in mountain biking at the Sydney
            Olympics.

            [...]

            What Cadel Evans has shown us all is that success is not an overnight plan, but,
            rather, the outcome of a dream, brought to reality by a commitment to a lifetime of
            effort.

            [...]

            This is what I see as the lessons that Cadel Evans has provided for us all, so I
            honour him for his lifetime of dedication which has seen him ascend to the very top
            of cycling in the world.
                5
            [...]




4
    http://www.letour.fr/2011/TDF/COURSE/us/actus.html#zone184496 accessed 25 October 2011.
5
    Commonwealth of Australia, Parliamentary Debates, House of Representatives, Official Hansard, No. 14, 21
       September 2011, Forty-Third Parliament, First Session-Spring Period.




ACMA Investigation Report – Midday Report broadcast by TV24 on 12 August 2011.                                 5
                                                                    Attachment A

The following principles are applied by the ACMA in assessing content against the obligation
in clause 2.1 of the Code:

   The ACMA must assess whether the relevant statement would have been understood by
    the ordinary, reasonable viewer as a statement of fact or an expression of opinion.
   The primary consideration would be whether, according to the natural and ordinary
    meaning of the language used and the substantive nature of the message conveyed, the
    relevant material presents as a statement of fact or an expression of opinion.
   In that regard, the relevant statement must be evaluated in its context, i.e. contextual
    indications from the rest of the broadcast (including tenor and tone) are relevant in
    assessing the meaning conveyed to the ordinary reasonable viewer.

   The use of language such as „it seems to me‟, „we consider/think/believe‟ tends to
    indicate that a statement is presented as an opinion. However, a common sense
    judgment is required as to how the substantive nature of the statement would be
    understood by the ordinary reasonable viewer, and the form of words introducing the
    relevant statement is not conclusive.

   Inferences of a factual nature made from observed facts would usually still be
    characterised as factual material (subject to context); to qualify as an opinion/viewpoint,
    an inference reasoned from observed facts would usually have to be an inference of a
    judgmental or contestable kind.

   While broadcasters are not required to present all factual material available to them, if the
    omission of some factual material means that the factual material presented is not
    presented accurately, that would amount to a breach of the clause.
   The identity of the person making the statement would not in and of itself determine
    whether the statement is factual material or opinion, i.e. it is not possible to conclude that
    because a statement was made by an interviewee, it was necessarily a statement of
    opinion rather than factual material.




ACMA Investigation Report – Midday Report broadcast by TV24 on 12 August 2011.                       6

				
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