The lodging of a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) highlights the decline in moral obligations to the Aboriginal owners of ‘Imparja Television’. The complaint, by Alice Springs Senior Arrente lawman Warren H Williams, is against advertisements sponsored by a business action group “Action for Alice” on Imparja Television.
What should be of concern to the board of Imparja, and the board of the majority share-holder, the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association (CAAMA,) is the consequences of running such material.
Mr. Williams says the advertisements are racist and vilify Indigenous people. Mr Williams is being represented by human rights lawyer George Newhouse of Surry Partners Lawyers in Sydney. The complaint is requesting that Imparja and ‘Action for Alice’ take the advertisements off air and off the internet immediately.
The advertisements feature footage of Indigenous youth walking on footpaths and other public areas in Alice Springs. A voiceover claims that “gangs of youths from as young as eight years old roam the streets at 3am, damaging property and terrorising residents and tourists”. It also claims that the current generation of Indigenous teenagers are “lawless criminals” and calls for tougher policing and “zero tolerance”.
In the complaint, Mr Williams says:
“I have never encountered anything like the unjust portrayal and vilification demonstrated by these advertisements… Many Aboriginal peoples have seen these advertisements and feel they have been unjustly represented.”A serious repercussion of these advertisements is the effect on self-esteem and self-worth, further fuelling a deterioration in the mental health of Indigenous peoples, particularly our youth. There is enough segregation within our society between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people… these advertisements just wedge that gap open even further.”
The complaint to the AHRC alleges:
“This advertisement not only defames, vilifies and shames the complainant but it is also offensive, insulting and humiliating to Indigenous Australians”.
The complaint could also come under scrutiny from the Australian Communications and Media Authority, (ACMA).
A direct breach of the license codes of practice section 123 of the Broadcasting services Act 1992. empowers the regulator, ACMA to impose a condition on a license requiring it to comply with the code.
1.3.1 A licensee which does not comply with such a condition may be subject to a range of penalties under the broadcasting services act 1992 or,
1.3.2 Determine a standard in relation to the matter if it is satisfied that there is convincing evidence that the code is not operating to provide appropriate community safeguards.
Imparja gets itself into serious breach territory under section 1.9,
1.9 A licensee will not broadcast a program, program promotion, station identification or a community service announcement which is likely, in all circumstances, to:
1.9.4 Use or involve or involve any technique which attempts to convey information to the viewer by transmitting messages below or near below the threshold of normal awareness.
1.9.5 Seriously offend the cultural sensitivities of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people or of ethnic groups or racial groups in the Australian community.
1.9.6 Provoke or perpetuate intense dislike, serious contempt or severe ridicule against a person or group of persons on the grounds of age, color, gender, national, ethnic origin, disability, race, religion, or sexual preference.
Imparja is an Aboriginal owned organisation. For it to broadcast material offense to its own people flies in the face of all that Aboriginal people have fought for.
What was the Board of Imparja thinking when these ads began running? Is there no quality control in the organisation? Are they too blind to see that they are being led by a management team who appear to have hijacked the organization from the members, the Board and the majority share holder CAAMA.
Any Aboriginal Board member who allows this injustice to continue, is no longer a fit and proper group to lead an organization.
It beggers belief; some of the Aboriginal people depicted in the ad, are their own relatives. What kind of relative does this to their own family?
Is the Board so weak that Imparja management can ride roughshod over them?. Or is there something more that is not understood by the average punter and how commercial television works.
Imparja is reliant on advertising for its existence, if there is no advertising to sustain the network then there is little future for imparja. Some in the community say that would be a good thing.
The action group responsible for the advertisement, also advertise individually on the Imparja network. Imparja has been manipulated by a sinister group of individuals, and wealthy good old boys, not about to share the power base with a group of Aborigines.
The “Action for Alice” group must also be called to account for promulgating such an over the top advertisement. Their actions are race-based and designed to protect the interests of business owners of Alice Springs.
Business owners who are happy to take blackfellas money, but don’t want them to be seen or live in the town. They want them to come to town spend all their money in their stores. Then kick them, kick them out of town, to town camps and communities where there are no services.
It’s the lack of services, and failed government policy are the main causes of the late night street walkers in towns across the Territory.
A good start by those businesses and the concerned Action group, would be to work towards solutions with the organizations and government to bring to the community together.
The question now is, where to, for Imparja?
Is it time the members take back control, in an orderly way, or have the members been so disenfranchised, and the situation deteriorated so much, that it calls for more drastic action.
If Imparja continue to act like radio shock jocks, and run advertising offensive to the very people it is there at the good grace of; then what it’s point? It may as well not exist.
Mr. Williams needs to be commended in his efforts to make Imparja accountable ,where the Imparja board has failed.
Maybe, one good man standing against all of the odds, in Alice Springs can make a change.