Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

AIJAC Disappointed With New SBS Codes of Practice

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16 October 2006

AIJAC Executive Director Dr Colin Rubenstein expressed AIJAC's disappointment with the newly amended SBS Codes of Practice. He explained that AIJAC had made a considered submission about the draft amendments, but that only one aspect covered by the AIJAC submission had been changed by SBS in the final version.

Dr Rubenstein noted, "SBS has removed Code 1.6, which provided that ethnic communities had the right to make representations to SBS about the coverage of events in their homeland, but that SBS must not be seen to be influenced by these groups. It is likely that many ethnic groups objected to this provision, the effect of which was that groups can speak to SBS but SBS can't take any notice of them, so it is unsurprising that this ridiculous provision was removed.

"Unfortunately, the other provisions of the Codes for which we suggested amendments have remained untouched. Among problems with the Codes as rewritten, there is no requirement for balance or accuracy in documentaries, there is no requirement that reports include sufficient relevant facts to give a proper understanding of the issues, only errors of fact regarded by SBS as 'significant' need be corrected, there is no need to distinguish analysis or comment from reporting, and balance in news and current affairs need only be provided over the period in which a 'controversy is active', rather than within the one program."

Dr Rubenstein also reiterated AIJAC's disappointment that the flawed complaints procedure was not addressed in the review process. He concluded, "The net effect of these problems with the Codes is that SBS journalists can provide a news and current affairs service that is unsatisfactory in many respects, yet still be in compliance with the Codes. The Codes will therefore act to shield them from justified complaints rather than ensuring they comply with acceptable standards of journalism".

For further information please contact Dr Colin Rubenstein on (03) 9681 6660 or 0418 339 721.

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