Note on interpretation
The purpose of these Editorial Policies is to assist SMS Media to provide content which fulfills its objectives and functions to the highest editorial standards under all binding laws.
The Principles set out SMS Media’s approach to each of the main issues to be addressed by an independent new age media house that regulates itself. The standards which follow each statement of principle are enforceable under internal management processes.
The Principles are intended to assist the interpretation and application of the Standards.
The Editorial Policies are intended to be applied with due regard for the nature of content under consideration in particular cases. SMS Media is conscious that its dual obligations – for accountability and for high quality – can in practice interact in complex ways.
The Standards are to be applied in ways that maintain independence and integrity, preserve trust and do not unduly constrain journalistic inquiry or artistic expression.
However, all who are involved with content for SMS Media are required to act with integrity and take account of likely harms in exercising their power and responsibility.
SMS Media Editorial Policies – Principles and Standards
The SMS Media Editorial Policies apply to all content produced, commissioned, acquired or otherwise obtained by SMS Media for broadcast or publication by SMS Media on platforms and through services operated by SMS Media, or by SMS Media on platforms and through services operated by third parties.
1 Independence, Integrity and Responsibility
The trust and respect of the community depend on SMS Media’s editorial independence and integrity. Independence and responsibility are inseparable. The Managing Director is the Editor-in-Chief who has ultimate editorial power and responsibility.
Maintain the independence and integrity of SMS Media.
Exercise SMS Media editorial control over all content SMS Media broadcasts or publishes.
Ensure that editorial decisions are not improperly influenced by political, sectional, commercial or personal interests.
External activities of individuals undertaking work for SMS Media must not undermine the independence and integrity of SMS Media’s editorial content.
Exercise editorial independence as authorized and accept responsibility for it. When in doubt about an editorial matter, refer it up to the next most senior person for advice or decision.
When any editorial matter, including an editorial matter not being referred up for advice or decision, is likely to cause controversy or have an extraordinary impact, give proper notice of it to the most appropriate senior manager.
SMS Media has a statutory duty to ensure that the gathering and presentation of news and information is accurate according to the recognized standards of objective journalism.
Credibility depends heavily on factual accuracy. Types of fact-based content include news and analysis of current events, documentaries, factual dramas and lifestyle programs.
SMS Media requires that reasonable efforts must be made to ensure accuracy in all fact-based content.
SMS Media gauges those efforts by reference to:
- the type, subject and nature of the content;
- the likely audience expectations of the content;
- the likely impact of reliance by the audience on the accuracy of the content; and
- the circumstances in which the content was made and presented.
SMS Media accuracy standard applies to assertions of fact, not to expressions of opinion. An opinion, being a value judgment or conclusion, can not be found to be accurate or inaccurate in the way facts can.
The accuracy standard requires that opinions be conveyed accurately, in the sense that quotes should be accurate and any editing should not distort the meaning of the opinion expressed. The efforts reasonably required to ensure accuracy will depend on the circumstances.
Sources with relevant expertise may be relied on more heavily than those without. Eyewitness testimony usually carries more weight than second-hand accounts. The passage of time or the inaccessibility of locations or sources can affect the standard of verification reasonably required.
SMS Media should make reasonable efforts, appropriate in the context, to signal to audiences gradations in accuracy, for example by querying interviewees, qualifying bald assertions, supplementing the partly right and correcting the plainly wrong.
Make reasonable efforts to ensure that material facts are accurate and presented in context.
Do not present factual content in a way that will materially mislead the audience. In some cases, this may require appropriate labels or other explanatory information.
3 Corrections and Clarifications
A commitment to accuracy includes a willingness to correct errors and clarify ambiguous or otherwise misleading information.
Swift correction can reduce harmful reliance on inaccurate information, especially given content can be quickly, widely and permanently disseminated. Corrections and clarifications can contribute to achieving fairness and impartiality.
Acknowledge and correct or clarify, in an appropriate manner as soon as reasonably practicable:
a) significant material errors that are readily apparent or have been demonstrated; or
b) information that is likely to significantly and materially mislead.
4 Impartiality and Diversity of Perspectives
SMS Media has a statutory duty to ensure that the gathering and presentation of news and information is impartial according to the recognized standards of objective journalism. Aiming to equip audiences to make up their own minds is consistent with the public service character of SMS Media.
A democratic society depends on diverse sources of reliable information and contending opinions. A broadcaster operating under statute with public funds is legitimately expected to contribute in ways that may differ from commercial media, which are free to be partial to private interests.
Judgements about whether impartiality was achieved in any given circumstances can vary among individuals according to their personal and subjective view of any given matter of contention.
Acknowledging this fact of life does not change SMS Media’s obligation to apply its impartiality standard as objectively as possible. In doing so, SMS Media is guided by these hallmarks of impartiality:
- a balance that follows the weight of evidence;
- fair treatment;
- open-mindedness; and
- opportunities over time for principal relevant perspectives on matters of contention to be expressed.
SMS Media aims to present, over time, content that addresses a broad range of subjects from a diversity of perspectives reflecting a diversity of experiences, presented in a diversity of ways from a diversity of sources, including content created by SMS Media staff, generated by audiences and commissioned or acquired from external content-makers.
Impartiality does not require that every perspective receives equal time, nor that every facet of every argument is presented. Assessing the impartiality due in given circumstances requires consideration in context of all relevant factors including:
- the type, subject and nature of the content;
- the circumstances in which the content is made and presented;
- the likely audience expectations of the content;
- the degree to which the matter to which the content relates is contentious;
- the range of principal relevant perspectives on the matter of contention; and
- the time-frame within which it would be appropriate for the SMS Media to provide opportunities for the principal relevant perspectives to be expressed, having regard to the public importance of the matter of contention and the extent to which it is the subject of current debate.
Gather and present news and information with due impartiality.
Present a diversity of perspectives so that, over time, no significant strand of thought or belief within the community is knowingly excluded or disproportionately represented.
Do not state or imply that any perspective is the editorial opinion of SMS Media. SMS Media takes no editorial stance other than its commitment to fundamental democratic principles including the rule of law, freedom of speech and religion, parliamentary democracy and equality of opportunity.
Do not misrepresent any perspective.
Do not unduly favour one perspective over another.
5 Fair and honest dealing
Fair and honest dealing is essential to maintaining trust with audiences and with those who participate in or are otherwise directly affected by SMS Media content.
In rare circumstances, deception or a breach of an undertaking may be justified. Because of the potential damage to trust, deception or breach of an undertaking must be explained openly afterwards unless there are compelling reasons not to do so.
Dealing with participants
Participants in SMS Media content should normally be informed of the general nature of their participation.
A refusal to participate will not be overridden without good cause.
Opportunity to respond
Where allegations are made about a person or organization, make reasonable efforts in the circumstances to provide a fair opportunity to respond.
Attribution and sources
Aim to attribute information to its source.
Where a source seeks anonymity, do not agree without first considering the source’s motive and any alternative attributable sources.
Do not misrepresent another’s work as your own.
Assurances given in relation to conditions of participation, use of content, confidentiality or anonymity must be honored except in rare cases where justified in the public interest.
Secret recording and other types of deception
Secret recording devices, misrepresentation or other types of deception must not be used to obtain or seek information, audio, pictures or an agreement to participate except where:
a) justified in the public interest and the material cannot reasonably be obtained by any other means; or
b) consent is obtained from the subject or identities are effectively obscured; or
c)the deception is integral to an artistic work and the potential for harm is taken into consideration.
An appropriately senior SMS Media person designated for the purpose must approve in advance, having consulted SMS Media Legal, any proposal:
a) to use secret recording during the production of content commissioned, produced or co-produced by SMS Media; or
b) to broadcast or publish material obtained by deception; or
c) to broadcast or publish without attribution information that forms the basis of a report and SMS Media is to be committed to protect the identity of the source of the information; or
d) not to honour an assurance given in relation to conditions of participation, use of content, confidentiality or anonymity.
Privacy is necessary to human dignity and every person reasonably expects that their privacy will be respected. But privacy is not absolute. SMS Media seeks to balance the public interest in respect for privacy with the public interest in disclosure of information and freedom of expression.
Intrusion into a person’s private life without consent must be justified in the public interest and the extent of the intrusion must be limited to what is proportionate in the circumstances.
7 Harm and offence
SMS Media broadcasts and publishes comprehensive and innovative content that aims to inform, entertain and educate diverse audiences.
Innovation involves a willingness to take risks, invent and experiment with new ideas. This can result in challenging content which may offend some of the audience some of the time. But it also contributes to diversity of content in the media and to fulfilling SMS Media’s function to encourage and promote the musical, dramatic and other performing arts.
SMS Media acknowledges that a public broadcaster should never gratuitously harm or offend and accordingly any content which is likely to harm or offend must have a clear editorial purpose.
SMS Media potentially reaches the whole community, so it must take into account community standards. SMS Media must also be able to provide content for specific target audiences whose standards may differ from generally held community attitudes.
Applying the harm and offence standard requires careful judgement. Context is an important consideration. What may be inappropriate and unacceptable in one context may be appropriate and acceptable in another.
Coarse language, disturbing images or unconventional situations may form a legitimate part of reportage, debate, documentaries or a humorous, satirical, dramatic or other artistic work. Consideration of the nature of the target audience for particular content is part of assessing harm and offence in context, as is any signposting that equips audiences to make informed choices about what they see, hear or read.
Content that is likely to cause harm or offence must be justified by the editorial context.
Where content is likely to cause harm or offence, having regard to the context, make reasonable efforts to provide information about the nature of the content through the use of classification labels or other warnings or advice.
If inadvertent or unexpected actions, audio or images in live content are likely to cause harm or offense, take appropriate steps to mitigate.
The reporting or depiction of violence, tragedy or trauma must be handled with extreme sensitivity. Avoid causing undue distress to victims, witnesses or bereaved relatives. Be sensitive to significant cultural practices when depicting or reporting on recently deceased persons.
Where there is editorial justification for content which may lead to dangerous imitation or exacerbate serious threats to individual or public health, safety or welfare, take appropriate steps to mitigate those risks, particularly by taking care with how content is expressed or presented.
Avoid the unjustified use of stereotypes or discriminatory content that could reasonably be interpreted as condoning or encouraging prejudice.
8 Children and young people
SMS Media aims to provide children and young people (under the age of 18) with enjoyable and enriching content, as well as opportunities for them to express themselves.
Children and young people participate and interact with SMS Media in various ways – as interviewees, subjects, content makers and audience members. SMS Media has a responsibility to protect children and young people from potential harm that might arise during their engagement with SMS Media and its content.
SMS Media shares this responsibility with parents/guardians and with the child or young person him/herself. In particular, SMS Media recommends that parents/guardians supervise children and young people’s access to content, their participation in interactive services, and their exposure to news and current affairs.
It is not always possible to avoid presenting content that may be distressing to some audience members.
Take due care over the dignity and physical and emotional welfare of children and young people who are involved in making, participating in and presenting content produced or commissioned by SMS Media.
Before significant participation of a child or young person in content produced or commissioned by SMS Media, or in interactive services offered by the SMS Media, consider whether it is appropriate to obtain the consent of both the child/young person and the parent/guardian.
Adopt appropriate measures wherever practicable to enable children and young people, or those who supervise them, to manage risks associated with the child/ young person’s participation with, use of and exposure to SMS Media content and services designed for them.
Take particular care to minimize risks of exposure to unsuitable content or inappropriate contact by peers or strangers.
9 Public Access and Participation
SMS Media provides opportunities for individuals and organizations to engage with SMS Media, its audiences and each other consistent with SMS Media’s public service purposes to inform, entertain, educate and encourage and promote various arts.
Public access and participation can take many forms, for example: musicians and artists
submit work for broadcast (Caller Ring-Back Tune – CRBT) or online presentation; audience members question SMS Media staff and their guests (by phone) or through online interactive services; organizers of concerts and other activities inform local communities through event diaries; political parties are granted broadcasts (SMS) to convey their policies directly to the electorate; and community service announcements support charities and other activities in the public interest.
SMS Media seeks both to draw audiences to the platforms it controls and to reach audiences using suitable services that third parties control. SMS Media takes editorial responsibility in proportion to its control of the media environment in which it operates. SMS Media expects those who participate also to exercise responsibility for what they can control.
In fostering engagement, SMS Media seeks to maintain its independence and integrity, preserve trust and cultivate respect among participants. SMS Media may establish conditions for participation with which participants are expected to comply.
SMS Media will exercise appropriate oversight over participants’ contributions, for example through appropriate moderation of its interactive services.
SMS Media does not require content generated and submitted by individuals and organizations to meet the standard of accuracy required of content generated by SMS Media.
However, where SMS Media is satisfied that it is appropriate to do so, SMS Media may decline to broadcast or publish, or may edit, remove, correct or clarify content generated by public participants that contains error or is otherwise false, misleading or harmful.
Individuals and organizations who generate and submit content are not required to be impartial. SMS Media recognizes that social and political activity, including robust debate, is a necessary and desirable aspect of a healthy democratic community.
Free broadcast time or publication space may be provided to enable individuals or organizations to communicate directly with SMS Media, the audience and each other, provided that:
a) the content is broadcast or published as a public service;
b) the content is relevant and suitable in the context in which it appears;
c) SMS Media maintains editorial control; and
d) SMS Media independence and integrity are maintained.
Opportunities to participate must be administered fairly and respectfully.
Do not knowingly mislead audiences about the nature of the content.
Clearly distinguish content generated and submitted to SMS Media from content produced, commissioned or acquired by SMS Media.
Do not accept money or other benefit in exchange for broadcasting or publishing the content generated through public access and participation.
10 Use of Social Media Policy
Personal and professional use of social media by SMS Media staff and contractors must not bring SMS Media (U) Limited into disrepute, compromise effectiveness at work, imply SMS Media endorsement of personal views or disclose, without authorisation, confidential information.
The policy encourages staff and contractors to take responsibility for their activity, aims to make it clear when the SMS Media Editorial Policies do and do not apply, and reinforces and augments principles set out in related policies governing work-related activities.
This policy should be read in conjunction with the SMS Media Editorial Policies and Code of Conduct, and the Workplace Behavior Policy.
Who it applies to
This policy applies to all SMS Media workplace participants, which includes: all SMS Media employees –including casual, fixed term and specified task employees, employees on probation, part-time employees, managers, employees working from home as well as full-time and ongoing employees; people providing services to the SMS Media on a contract basis (including SMS Media artists) or on secondment from or to another organization, even if they are only working at SMS Media on a temporary basis; students, graduates and others on work experience or undertaking voluntary work.
Consequences of Breach
Breach of this policy will be dealt with in accordance with the relevant SMS Media employment agreement and may lead to disciplinary action including possible termination of employment.
For consultants/contractors who are found to have breached this policy, there may be
consequences including termination of contract. Where inappropriate use under this policy constitutes a breach of any law, action may also be taken in accordance with that law by SMS Media or concerned third parties.
Interactive services, which include social media like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, are part of SMS Media’s future as a New Age Media company and increasingly part of the work and private lives of SMS Media staff consultants and contractors.
SMS Media encourages use of social media to engage existing and new audiences with SMS Media content, and to seek and share user‐generated content. Use of social media by staff and contractors is not limited to the workplace and occurs for professional or personal purposes both in and out of work hours.
The following four standards apply to work and personal use of interactive services, with SMS Media accounts and personal accounts, by staff and contractors, at any time:
- Do not mix the professional and the personal in ways likely to bring SMS Media into disrepute.
- Do not undermine your effectiveness at work.
- Do not imply SMS Media endorsement of your personal views.
- Do not disclose confidential information obtained through work.
Note: SMS Media will enforce the four standards as and when appropriate.
SMS Media is responsible under the Editorial Policies for content posted on official SMS Media accounts. SMS Media takes editorial responsibility in proportion to its control of the media environment in which it operates and expects those who participate also to exercise responsibility over what they can control.
Official SMS Media accounts are those over which SMS Media exercises editorial control.
Aspects of editorial control include:
- establishing the account, which must be authorized in accordance with the Editorial Policies
- publishing content generated, produced, commissioned or acquired by SMS Media;
- moderating user generated content posted on the account, to the extent permitted by the third party site and in line with the expectations and conventions of existing users of the third party site and
- determining if and when the account is to be modified or closed.
Official SMS Media accounts may be listed and cross‐promoted on SMS Media platforms. Personal accounts may not be listed or cross‐promoted on SMS Media platforms unless editorially justified.
Note, editorial references to personal accounts will not mean SMS Media takes editorial responsibility for the content on those accounts, just as SMS Media does not become editorially responsible for the content posted on external websites simply by virtue of referring to those sites in SMS Media content.
If a complaint is received about content on an official SMS Media account, SMS Media accepts editorial responsibility and the Editorial Policies apply.
If a complaint is received about content on a personal account, SMS Media does not accept editorial responsibility and the Editorial Policies do not apply.
Staff, consultants and contractors are responsible for the content they post on their personal social media accounts.
Where a staff member’s or consultant’s personal use of social media contravenes one of the four standards (above), then it may be appropriate for SMS Media to respond.
In relation to staff, a breach of this policy may be handled in accordance with the relevant SMS Media Rules and Regulations and any other relevant SMS Media policies, and may lead to disciplinary action.
In relation to contractors and consultants, there may be contractual implications and consequences.