5 April 2007
ACMA finds 4MMM Brisbane failed to provide a response to a complaint
The Australian Communications and Media Authority has found that the licensee of 4MMM, Triple M Brisbane Pty Ltd, has breached the Commercial Radio Australia Codes of Practice 2004 by failing to provide a response to a complaint.
The complaint was made on 19 September 2006 about content on 4MMM’s program Tough Love, which was also aired on Triple M stations in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. Under the Commercial Radio Codes of Practice, licensees must use its best endeavours to respond to a complaint within 30 days.
The complaint related to a segment on Tough Love about Papuan child Wa-Wa and media coverage surrounding the child at the time. The complainant alleged that the segment could incite hatred against or vilify Wa-Wa on the basis of age or race and did not meet contemporary standards of decency.
The complainant did not receive a response from 4MMM, which it attributed to human error.
ACMA found that while 4MMM did not breach the relevant provisions of the code in relation to the material broadcast on the program, it did breach the complaints handling process.
In response to the breach finding, the licensee has set up a dedicated complaints fax line and a complaints-specific email address. The fax number is in the ‘contact us’ section of the 4MMM website and the complaints’ email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
ACMA considers that these are acceptable measures to address the complaints handling failure. As this is the licensee’s first breach of clause 5.6 of the code, these actions are commensurate and ACMA will monitor the effectiveness of the new measures.
Investigation report #1786 is available on the ACMA website.
Media contact: Donald Robertson, ACMA Media Manager, on (02) 9334 7980.
ACMA conducts various types of investigations under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (the Act). Investigations under Part 11 of the Act are conducted in response to complaints received by ACMA relating to a possible breach by:
- a licensed broadcaster of the Act, the regulations, a licence condition, a class licence or a code of practice; or
- the ABC or SBS of a code of practice.
If a person wishes to complain about something of concern they have seen or heard on a program broadcast by a radio or TV station, and the matter is covered by a code of practice, the person must, by law, first make a written complaint to the station.
However, if a complaint relates to a matter covered by a licence condition, the person can complain directly to ACMA and need not complain to the station first.
There is a different code of practice for each broadcasting sector, and each code of practice contains a section that explains the complaints process that applies to that sector.
As some codes impose time limits for complaints, it is advisable that persons who wish to make a complaint write to the radio or TV station as soon as possible. For instance, the code of practice that applies to commercial television broadcasters enables them to decide to not respond in writing to complaints that are made more than 30 days after the date of broadcast.
When making a complaint to ACMA, persons must provide a copy of their complaint to the station, a copy of the station’s reply if this has been received, and any other relevant correspondence with the station. ACMA takes all complaints seriously (except for those that are frivolous or vexatious or not made in good faith) and acknowledges all complaints in writing.
For qualifying complaints, ACMA considers the information provided and offers the relevant station an opportunity to provide its perspectives. When all relevant information is available, ACMA assesses the complaint against the relevant licence condition or code of practice.
When an investigation is completed, ACMA is required to notify a complainant of the results of an investigation under Part 11 of the Act. The form this notification is to take is not specified in the Act – sometimes it is in the form of a letter, but more usually it takes the form of a more formal investigation report, which is provided to both the complainant and the licensee concerned.
Generally, personal or private information provided in a complaint, including name and address details, are not disclosed to the licensee concerned if it is a licence condition matter. However, as code complaints are first made to a licensee, code complaints are usually made available to the licensee concerned. ACMA’s usual practice is to not provide personal or private information in an investigation report.
Under the Act, ACMA has discretion whether or not to publish the report of an investigation conducted under Part 11 of the Act. ACMA is not required to publish an investigation report if publication would disclose matter of a confidential character or likely to prejudice the fair trial of a person. If ACMA intends to publish an investigation report that may adversely affect the interests of a person, ACMA must give the person an opportunity to make representations in relation to the matter.