Nine broadcast of Covid vaccine phone conversation breaches licence condition

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has found Queensland Television Ltd (Nine) breached a condition of its licence after A Current Affair broadcast a private telephone conversation.

The conversation, which was recorded in Queensland, was between an employee of the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and a member of the public who had suffered an adverse reaction to a COVID-19 vaccination. The conversation was published without the consent of the TGA employee.

An ACMA investigation found that in airing the conversation on A Current Affair, the broadcaster breached Queensland privacy laws and therefore was also in breach of its broadcasting licence condition that it will not use its service to offend against a law of a state or territory.

ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin said broadcasters must always consider the conditions of their licence when putting material on air.

“Reporting on the side-effects of COVID-19 vaccinations was clearly in the public interest. But, in broadcasting this private conversation, Nine exceeded what was reasonable or necessary for keeping the public informed on matters of public health and safety,” Ms O’Loughlin said.

“Nine has aired this phone conversation without the consent of all the participants. This is unacceptable, especially from such a high-profile program with experienced reporters.”

In response to the licence breach, Nine will make its A Current Affair staff aware of the ACMA’s finding and its implications for future programming, and conduct additional training on staff’s obligations to operate within the station’s licence conditions.

“We consider these actions proportionate to the breach, but will be very concerned if we see additional licence condition breaches by Nine in the future,” Ms O’Loughlin said.

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