By Andrew Starke

Sydney hoteliers including the Merivale Group, owners of The Ivy and Establishment, have won a reprieve from high-profile media allegations that they tried to hide incidents of violence on their premises.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) found that Channel Nine’s Nine News had overstepped the mark when a report on March 9 2010 alleged that pubs and clubs were ‘trying to hide booze-fuelled violence’.

In a transcript of the report (which can be read below), Channel Nine implicated 19 venues and said its investigation would show which bars were breaking the law.

Also named in the report, along with the Merivale flagships, were the Albion Hotel in Parramatta, Stonewall nightclub in Darlinghurst and Northies in Cronulla.

However the media regulator found that the report had inaccurately suggested that these pubs and hotels were involved in a cover-up.

“Clause 4.4.1 requires licensees to present news ‘fairly’ and ‘impartially’. As indicated above, the concepts of fairness and impartiality have some overlap.

“The delegate has considered the dictionary definitions of both concepts outlined above as going to an underlying concern that the news report was unfairly biased against the complainants,” the judgment concluded.

“It is considered that the inaccurate claims made in the report regarding the complainants concealing information resulted in an unfair bias or inclination against the complainants.

“The delegate does not accept the licensee’s contention that there was no undue emphasis on the complainants as an entity other than as part of a group of pubs and clubs.

“Clause 4.4.1 does not require licensees to present news fairly and impartially in relation to a particular person, entity or a group. The fact that the complainant was part of a group does not detract from the finding that the news report was not presented fairly and impartially.

“Accordingly, the licensee has breached clause 4.4.1 of the code.”

To read the full judgment, click here.

Transcript of news item on Nine News – 9 March 2010

Presenter (News Intro): We expose the pubs and clubs trying to hide booze-fuelled violence.

Presenter: Some of Sydney’s most popular pubs and clubs are being caught trying to hide violent and drunken incidents. They failed to report bad behaviour and now many have been fined.

Reporter: Community outrage at bashings and glassings at our pubs and clubs have forced the state government to bring in tougher restrictions last year. Now our investigation shows who was breaking the rules. Over the last 18 months 19 of the 66 pubs and clubs with poor track records were busted, including [X] at [suburb], [Y] at [suburb], [Z] at [suburb] and both [A] and [B] in [suburb]. All failed to keep log books up-to-date detailing drunken behaviour or violence. They already have extra restrictions, including lock out periods, plastic cups and drink limits. Each was fined $1,100 or received official warnings.

Gaming Minister: Very tough regulations making sure that we get on top of alcohol-fuelled violence. We have clearly shown our position. Pubs, clubs are on notice – play by the rules or penalties will be imposed.

Reporter: The Minister did not rule out tougher penalties if more pubs and clubs were caught out. None of the hotels caught by inspectors were willing to comment, instead leaving the explaining to their Association.

Hotels Association: The majority of them are technical breaches. Where they are serious, we will continue to work hard to ensure that’s rectified.

Reporter: The industry says that it spends half a billion dollars a year on security and that’s proof of its commitment to customers.

Presenter: And [the reporter] joins us from one of the pubs under scrutiny in [suburb], [the reporter].

Reporter: Well [the presenter] I’m here at [W’s], one of three in this local area who failed to keep a proper log of alcohol-fuelled violence, inside the hotel or here on the street. Now the real test will be over the next 12 months is whether or not our pubs and clubs become safer or whether or not there has to be tougher penalties or more restrictions. Back to you.

Presenter: Alright [the reporter], thank you.


The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *