Homebirth families have had their privacy violated by the media at one of the most intimate and personal times of their lives – the birth of a child.

Some Australian families have had to endure television crews filming through the windows of their homes, private photos published without consent, images of homebirth women, midwives and their families have been broadcast including identifying information such as where they live and sensitive health information. There has been appalling treatment by the media of families who have experienced a stillbirth at home and during coronial inquests. This has caused considerable distress to families already suffering grief at the loss of a child.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has now taken action following a complaint made by a father in Adelaide following the birth of a healthy baby.

It was found by ACMA that Channel Nine Adelaide (NWS 9) has breached the privacy provisions of the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice 2010 (the code) by identifying a family involved in a home birth. It is the first television broadcast to breach the privacy provisions of the code since the new privacy guidelines were introduced in December 2011.

The news story concerned a deregistered midwife continuing to practise but it broadcast sensitive personal information about a newborn baby. The 16 February 2012 broadcast also contained identifying and intrusive footage of the complainant and his family inside their home and surrounds. The television crews arrived at the house following a call to the ambulance – they then proceeded to film over a period of 2 days including walking down the driveway and filming through a kitchen window into the family’s home.

‘The concept of being protected against someone intruding on your private space is a key tenet of the privacy guidelines,’ said ACMA Chairman, Chris Chapman.

‘It is partly based on a person’s reasonable expectation that their activities would not be observed or overheard. In this case, footage in and around the complainant’s home was found to be an invasion of privacy,’ he said.

The ACMA also found that the licensee failed the additional code obligation to exercise special care before using sensitive personal information about a child.

NWS 9 has agreed to a tailored training program for relevant staff and to making a statement on its website providing a link to the ACMA’s investigation decision.

The footage was said to be intrusive and identified the complainant and his family inside their home and surrounds, which had been broadcast without the complainant’s knowledge or concern for their privacy.

Download the ACMA decision here [PDF]

ACMA media release 93/2012 – 4 December 2012

Mumbrella – Nine News found guilty of breaching family’s privacy by filming through window in midwife report

Crikey – Channel Nine slapped down for privacy breach – 4 December 2012

The Australian – Nine breached home-birth privacy – 5 December 2012