The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has found Melbourne-based community broadcaster 3ZZZ in breach of community broadcasting rules in its coverage of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.
An ACMA investigation found that content broadcast on 3ZZZ’s ‘The Russian Program’ on 24 February 2022 breached rules around factual accuracy and also stereotyped and attempted to demean Ukrainian people.
During the program, which is presented in the Russian language, the host made a number of comments stating that Russian armed forces had not carried out any “missile, air or artillery strikes on the cities of Ukraine”. The ACMA investigation found this was not accurate at the time of broadcast, with credible evidence citing 24 February 2022 as the start of Russia’s missile attacks against Ukrainian cities.
The investigation also noted the program host made statements presenting the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk from Ukraine as fact. In assessing credible external sources, including comments from Australia’s then Minister for Foreign Affairs, the ACMA is of the view that these statements were inaccurate.
ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin said rules around accuracy in community radio news are in place so that listeners can be confident that what is being reported is true and credible.
“Community radio, including in-language services, fulfils a vital role in Australia’s broadcasting landscape, providing access to content audiences may not otherwise be able to find. Therefore, it’s important that audiences can trust that the information presented is accurate.
“In this case, 3ZZZ has aired material that did not meet the accuracy standards expected of a community broadcaster,” Ms O’Loughlin said.
The ACMA also found the program included content that was demeaning towards Ukrainian people on the basis of their nationality, language and political affiliations. This included a song which mocks the Ukrainian government and people, presenting a stereotype of Ukrainians that attempted to undermine their dignity.
Following the findings, 3ZZZ has entered into a court-enforceable undertaking with the ACMA that will see it provide training for all relevant staff and volunteers on compliance with the Community Radio Broadcasting Codes of Practice. The station will also establish systems, processes and practices for the identification of geo-political matters and environmental sensitivities of a serious nature, so that these can be appropriately managed in broadcasts in the future.