Remember when we all watched with gaping maws at the ignorance of politicians and pundits on ABC1's Q&A program? Remember when Daniel Silk wrote a substantial letter of complaint to the ABC about how poorly the discussion was handled? Well Daniel has had something of a result from his letter, which led to an assessment of the program and an apology and admission that some of the remarks made by Tony Jones could be "confusing and misleading". A footnote has been added to the Q&A webpage for the particular program. It doesn't fix what went wrong on the night, but a GG to Daniel for raising the alarm in an official capacity -- and the Q&A team will probably be more careful to get things straight should gaming come up again in future.
The full reply letter to Daniel from the ABC after the jump. [Thanks to Daniel for sharing!]
Thank you for your email. Please accept my sincere apologies for the delay in responding to your concerns.
In keeping with our complaint handling procedures, Audience and Consumer Affairs has reviewed the Q & A broadcast of 24 July 2008, assessed it against ABC editorial standards, considered the points you make and, in order to ensure procedural fairness, sought comment from the program team.
With regard to the background information on the game Fallout 3 provided by presenter Tony Jones, we acknowledge your point that the game was refused classification by the Classification Board because of the intravenous drug use, rather than the violence in the game. While Tony Jones mentioned the issue of drug use and violence in his précis of the game, he offered no specifics on why the game was actually refused classification. From our own understanding of the game of Fallout 3, the ABC believes that it is legitimate to mention the violence in the game. Mr Jones did not state that the main purpose of the game was to kill everyone. For your information Fallout 3 was used as it was a topical example of a game that had been refused classification by the Classification Board.
The ABC apologises for the information provided by presenter Tony Jones in the middle of the discussion on gaming and agrees that it may have been confusing and misleading. Mr Jones was aware that a rating system exists for games. He had been briefed on concerns that the current system is inadequate because it does not provide an R rating. But regrettably in the pressure of the program and in attempting to summarise and point to the lack of a comprehensive rating system, Mr Jones erred by stating that there was no ratings system for video games.
As the program is still available online, the program team have put a note on the website at: http://www.abc.net.au/tv/qanda/txt/s2318124.htm. This note acknowledges that some of the discussion was confusing, admits Tony Jones's error, explains that a classification system exists and directs readers to the Classification (Publication, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995. In addition, the program team have been reminded of the ABC's commitment to factual accuracy as elucidated in the ABC's Code of Practice. For your reference this may be accessed at: http://abc.net.au/corp/pubs/documents/200806_codeofpractice-revised_2008.pdf.
The ABC acknowledges your thoughts on the views expressed by some of the panellists on this subject. The panel members are politicians and others who have a role in public life. They do not know the questions they will have to answer nor what subject matter will be canvassed, prior to going on air. While I understand your concerns regarding the views put forth by the panel members on gaming, it is the case that they may not have had any experience with the subject prior to the program. It should also be noted that their views are their own. They are not shared by the ABC. The program does attempt to evince the panellists' answers fresh, unfettered, and unmediated by party political spin.
You voice concern that the subject of snuff movies was raised. As I am sure you will understand, Tony Jones cannot rigidly control the direction of the discussion. Neither he, nor the ABC can ensure that the panellists stay on the subject matter. For your information it was National Party senator Barnaby Joyce who mentioned snuff movies. The segue into a discussion about gambling and the pokies was a result of Tony Jones throwing to an audience member who had their hand up. This audience member was seeking the panellists' views on the idea that protecting people's right to chose entertainment, such as their right to chose violent video games, plays into the hands of those who would wish to legitimise gambling, when gambling causes more social problems than violent video games.
I note your comment that the original audience member who asked the question had his hand up throughout the discussion, presumably because he wished to make a follow up point. It was the case that he had the opportunity to speak again when he was asked a question by journalist Christine Jackman who was on the panel. Given the ebb and flow of the discussion, it is not always possible or desirable for Tony Jones to return to the audience for further comment from the original questioner; however, we understand that in this instance it may have been worthwhile given the error noted above.
The ABC appreciates your feedback. Please be assured that it has been registered by the Q & A team and they will be mindful of your views should the subject matter come up again on the program.
Thank you again for taking the time to write.
Claire M Gorman Investigations Officer ABC Audience and Consumer Affairs