We refer to a Nine News broadcast on May 24, 2019, as seen from 6pm on Channel Nine in Brisbane and elsewhere in Australia, regarding a dispute over the legality of a (presently legal, pending QCAT proceedings) self-loading firearm in Queensland known as the Wedgetail WFA- 15-01.
Multiple promotions for this segment on Nine News, both online and during the broadcast itself, described these legally obtained self-loading firearms, owned by licensed and vetted people, as “looking like a machine-gun”, “firing like a machine-gun”, and “killing like a machine-gun” and
referred to it as a “murder weapon”.
The promotions further said they were “Available to Queenslanders”, with a clear implication they could be purchased over the counter in the same way one might purchase a cricket bat or a tennis racquet, when this is not true – the firearm in the story, as indeed all guns, are heavily restricted.
The promotions for the segment were an appalling insult to the approximately 200,000 licensed gun owners in Queensland and we contend it breached sections 3.3 and 3.4 of Commercial TV Code of Practice 2018, relating to accuracy and fairness in news reporting.
The promotions were inaccurate on numerous counts, including the outright lie that the gun in question looks and fires like a machine-gun; they guns mentioned in the story are incapable of full automatic fire, being self-loading and restricted to 10 shots in the magazine.
The footage promoting the news segment was misleading, using clips of fully automatic weapons (which are illegal to own in Australia), and also not in any way representative of the gun in the story. Some of these clips appeared in the story as well, in reference to the AR-15 rifle (which is
also not capable of full automatic fire and is so heavily restricted as to be effectively banned in Australia).
It is extraordinarily offensive to describe legitimately owned firearms – NONE of which have ever been used in a crime of any kind in Queensland – as “Murder weapons”, and as Nine News is not a current affairs show, we do not consider the exemptions for these types of programmes, as described in section 3.4.3 of the Code, to apply.
The promotions for this story have not only caused further damage to the constantly assaulted image of law-abiding firearms users across Australia, they have lowered the esteem in which the profession of journalism is held by many members of the public – there were more than 1,100 comments on this Facebook piece promoting the story at time of writing, all of which appear to be slamming Channel Nine.
We would like to see multiple retractions of these promotions, prominently declaring the guns in the story are NOT machine-guns, do NOT work like machine-guns, and that lawfully held firearms are NOT murder weapons.
Please feel free to contact us if we can be of further assistance.
President, Shooters Union Australia