The ABC’s newly-established Ombudsman’s office has found the national broadcaster breached its own standards of impartiality and accuracy in a report on a town meeting in Alice Springs to address rising crime rates. The Ombudsman found the report on the radio current affairs program “unduly” favoured perspectives suggesting the meeting was racist, and included an inaccurate representation of attendance at the meeting.
The report’s findings
The ABC’s Ombudsman office – which is independent of the broadcaster’s content-making divisions – found the report did not present a range of relevant perspectives about the meeting. It says the only critical perspective conveyed were claims that the meeting was racist. It was also found the report breached accuracy standards by saying there were “hundreds of people” attending the meeting, when there were thousands in attendance.
After initially defending the story the day after it was published, the ABC later apologised for providing an “incomplete picture of the event” through its reporting. The story has now been edited to include an accurate estimate of the number of attendees at the meeting, and to include further context and perspectives. An editor’s note on the story also acknowledges the flaws in the report. The Ombudsman recommended that the editor’s note be updated to include its findings, which has now been done.
There has been a significant spike in crime in Alice Springs, including assault, domestic violence, and property damage since last November. This prompted renewed scrutiny on alcohol availability. The article was published on 31 January, before the NT Government announced it will reimpose alcohol bans in Central Australia.