Offensive comments aired on Channel Seven’s breakfast show Sunrise have been found to be in breach of television codes of practice.
The segment, which was broadcast on March 13, had non-Indigenous commentators talking about the removal of Aboriginal children who were at risk of abuse, with one suggesting a 'Stolen Generation' policy would be a good idea.
It provoked widespread criticism including protests outside the station's studio at Martin Place in Sydney and another during at outside broadcast on the Gold Coast.
An investigation released on Tuesday by the Australian Communications and Media Authority found that Seven breached the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice by including a factual inaccuracy and inciting contempt or ridicule on the basis of someone's race.
The claim that Indigenous children could only be adopted by Aboriginal families was not accurate. According to Australian government figures, only four Indigenous children were adopted between 2016 and 2017.
ACMA also found Seven incited contempt because the segment “directed very strong negative feelings towards Indigenous people, even though this may not have been the licensee’s intention”.
“The ACMA understands the panellists generally have little time to prepare for the discussion and questions whether a subject as important and complex as the welfare of Indigenous children can be appropriately addressed in such a format.”
The media watchdog also found that Seven did not make an “appropriate” correction despite airing a follow-up segment featuring an all-Indigenous panel.
“Had the presenter explicitly acknowledged the inaccurate statement from the previous episode and corrected that statement, the ACMA would have been satisfied that the correction was made in an appropriate manner,” it said in its ruling.
The 'Hot Topics' segment was introduced by presenter Sam Armytage who incorrectly stated that Aboriginal children at risk of “rape, assault and neglect” could only be “placed with relatives or other Indigenous families”.
The panellists, conservative commentator Prue MacSween and Brisbane radio presenter Ben Davis, then gave their views about the removal of at-risk Indigenous children.
Ms MacSween suggested Aboriginal children should be taken from their families "just like the first Stolen Generation".
Mr Davis also commended a politician for saying what others “are afraid to say because of the fear of being labelled racist”.
Craig McPherson, Seven’s director of news, said the company was “extremely disappointed” by the ACMA decision.
“The coverage included a detailed follow-up segment on Sunrise featuring expert analysis from leading Aboriginal leaders and academics who expressed appreciation this issue was finally being raised in mainstream media.
“The irony is that the very issue the commentators were critical of, that is political correctness preventing meaningful discussion and action, has come to bear with this finding."
Seven plans to appeal the decision in court.
Since the controversial segment went to air, Mr Davis has quit Brisbane’s 4BC radio station.
Ms MacSween has not appeared on Sunrise but she has appeared on the Nine Network’s rival programs Today Extra and Weekend Today.