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The media and racial hatred

The role of media

One of NIRV's conclusions was that

the perpetuation and promotion of negative racial stereotypes, a tendency towards conflictual and sensationalist reporting on race issues and an insensitivity towards and often ignorance of minority cultures can all contribute to creating a social climate which is tolerant of racist violence.

The Commission recognises the pivotal role the media plays in helping to shape Australia's sense of community and the way in which it reflects and sometimes drives the debate around major issues.

Media and race issues

As a significant player in the public arena, it is inevitable that some complaints under the legislation will be directed towards the media. While the media has a right and indeed an obligation to report on race issues, it also has a responsibility to exercise impartiality, accuracy and balance in reporting.

There is no uniform regulatory standard which covers all forms of media. The Racial Hatred Act merely reinforces many of the professional and regulatory standards that apply to the media, such as the Australian Press Council's Statement of Principles, broadcasting codes and the Journalists' Code of Ethics. The Act is aimed at preventing the following examples of malicious or gratuitous vilification, as well as a whole range of public acts that are based on racial hatred which occur within our community.


Sydney Radio Example

Consider the following inflammatory comment made by a Sydney radio announcer in response to a caller's complaint about a Chinese restaurant:

"It makes you feel like getting a dozen or so of your footballing mates together and have a night down there and sort these little bastards out."

The announcer also made references to staff in Chinese restaurants as "chinks" and "weeds" and referred to Japanese people as "rotten little slant eyed devils to the North screwing us down".

Complaints about the comments were upheld by the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal as a breach of its radio program standards. The Tribunal made an order that future broadcasts by the announcer be subject to a ten second time delay so that comments could be edited if necessary. Failure to comply rendered the station liable to non-renewal of its licence.

Such overt incitement of racial hatred or violence in the media is rare. 

Newspaper Example

A newspaper article entitled 'Ethnic Invasion on Dogs' bemoaned the multicultural support base of a Sydney rugby league club. The article spoke of the need to "spot the Aussie... because there were not too many of them", that there was only one "home grown product on the field", that the remaining composition of the team was a "sad state of affairs", and that football commentators would need to "take language lessons to get their tongues around players' names".


This guide acknowledges the importance of the media's role and illustrates how possible breaches of the law can be avoided. It also raises broader issues for your consideration. It is intended to highlight the responsibilities that come with working within the Racial Hatred Act.

Further Reading