ABC apologises for poor Fallout 3 discussion on 'Q&A'

abc-qna.jpgRemember 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.

Yours sincerely

Claire M Gorman Investigations Officer ABC Audience and Consumer Affairs


Comments

    Way to go Daniel! Bend the Mans knee. I wanted to write a letter as well but I couldn't get through a sentence without liberal peppering of words that rhyme with plucking runts.

    When I watched the show on TV my wife had to tell me to stop shouting. Then they segwayed from Fallout 3 into a conversation on gambling machines with the moronic polie getting a round of applause for his gambling legislation. My forehead was sore from repeated slapping.

    Woah, a reply. Awesome work Daniel!

    So Tony Jones was flustered on national television and made a mistake when speaking about a subject. A TV host. Do you still back up your "sub-par representative" comment from the last time this came up Seamus in light of the fact that even professional TV hosts make mistakes some times? The guy asking the question certainly wasn't a pro.

    You're right I was harsh, Amy. Let's add mine to the list of mistakes? But I stand by what I said to a great extent. As the side of the argument who rarely gets a shot at stating our case, I think this is a good example of how prepared we need to be should we see an opportunity to speak up on a national stage.

    Very nice result. Well done to everyone involved. I generally like Tony Jones, so I was appalled by the ignorance he displayed on this topic. As for people being unprepared to answer the question, I stand by my comment at the time that these so-called "experts" need to learn some humility and be prepared to say, "I'm sorry, but I really don't know anything about that topic." These people are so desperate to appear knowledgeable that they refuse to admit there may be something they don't know. The one refreshing exception was the Labor member (name escapes me) who said pretty much what I suggested above.

    Good on them for bothering to apologise. But the thing I find most inaccurate is this load of waffle:
    "Mr Jones did not state that the main purpose of the game was to kill everyone."
    But in actual fact, I clearly heard him saying "people come out after a while and start killing everyone." Or something along those lines. That is paramount to saying the player kills everyone, since you're one of the only people out there!

    It's impressive the response that was given by the ABC, though in their defence, apart from the stuff up of Tony Jones's, not a lot the ABC can do about idiots and their opinions.

    Which on this issue, was the entire panel, only one had his head on him saying there seems to defiantely be a case for an R rating, but even he wasn't informed about wat he was commenting on.

    There is no way the panel would have addressed the question correctly, its unfortunately not the best forum for games related discussion, I’m sure this hasn’t been the first time most of us have seen a train wreck games related topic on national television.
    While i agree that it was unfortunate that the topic was covered so clumsily, i think we can rest assured in the fact that, claiming on TV that games 'currently have no rating' to an audience of likeminded, ill informed wowsers will hopefully get quite allot of folks up in arms about the whole games rating debate. If more people, ill informed as they may be, start fuelling a fire in the name of getting a better ratings system going for games, then perhaps the R rating will be approved sooner than we think. Perhaps the wowsers will take the time to study up on the fact that games getting banned are few & far between while games in-need are getting released without an R rating in this country all the time.

    I complained as well. The ABC sent this back to me the other day:

    Dear Ms (redacted),

    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 which was provided by Tony Jones, this was one interpretation of the game. The ABC acknowledges that the game has many more nuances than those described; however Mr Jones was only able to provide a brief summary and it was legitimate that he mentioned that the game contained both intravenous drug use and violence. Further, it should be noted that Fallout 3 was used merely as an example of a game which has been refused classification.

    I should point out that Mr Jones did not state that the only reason why these games are banned is because of the violence. The ABC is aware of the fact that Fallout 3 was refused classification due to the intravenous drug use.

    The ABC apologises for the information provided by presenter Tony Jones in the middle of the discussion on the lack of ratings for games and believes that it may have been confusing and misleading. The program team has informed us that Mr Jones was aware that a rating system exists for games. He had been briefed on concerns within the gaming community 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.

    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 given the information provided above, Tony Jones does not rigidly control the direction of the discussion. The aim is for the conversation to follow a natural ebb and flow. Neither he, nor the ABC can ensure that the panellists always stay on the subject matter.

    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 as described above 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 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.

    Thank you again for taking the time to write and provide us with your feedback. The program team will keep your views in mind should the subject matter come up again.

    Yours sincerely

    Claire M Gorman
    Investigations Officer
    ABC Audience and Consumer Affairs

    It's good to see the ABC listens to their viewer's concerns, and replies appropriately (believe me, I've seen far worse from large corporations and Government departments where the answers obviously weren't researched, just a reply from someone having a bad day). I can see how we'd get such mindless banter when the people on the show are not given advance warning of the questions and I can see why the ABC run the show that way and agree with it. What the panelists should have done was follow the lead of the gentleman that admitted he didn't know enough to make a proper comment. Bonus points for him. The show would probably been less interesting and I imagine it never would have made it to air. That would actually have been better than what we got. Maybe they could regularly ask the question of different panels until they get a decent discussion going? I can't imagine that happening though.

    It'd be interesting to tell the same panel "in a few weeks we're going to get you back to ask the same question. Go away, do some research on the topic, form your own opinion and then we'll go through it all again, hopefully with some legitimate debate this time."

    Sadly, we all know that any comments they make would be toeing their own party's line and unlikely to be a personal opinion. Still, it might make for a somewhat more interesting show than the one we got. Pity it'll never happen.

    I got a very similar letter after my complaint.

    It's nice that they responded, but I asked them to follow up and allow a right of reply by gamers, which wasn't addressed.

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