AN Irish doctor featured in a hidden-camera segment on the Channel Nine’s A Current Affair has lodged a formal complaint with the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).
Dr Liam Carroll hit out at the programme-makers last month, after he was secretly filmed in a segment about medical sick notes called ‘Doctors Certificate Scandal’.
Producer Aaron O’Brien and a female colleague visited Dr Carroll at the Brassall Clinic in Ipswich at the beginning of last month. In the resulting segment, Mr O’Brien claimed he told the doctors he was merely tired and managed to obtain five medical certificates.
The Dubliner told the Irish Echo he has since received ‘guarded’ apology from the programme. Dr Carroll claims there are several sections of the programme’s transcript in which it is clear the filming and reporting methods used broke industry codes of practice. But Nine rejects the claims.
In a letter from its compliance department dated October 29, the network provides a defence of the segment under its own code of practice, while apologising for the ‘grief caused’.
The network says it protected Dr Carroll’s privacy by pixelating his face and cropping out and blurring out and other identifying material from vision taken in office.
The network has also challenged claims by Dr Carroll that the producer who visited his office stated he was ‘bullied’ and ‘could not face work’.
It states: “From the broadcast, the producer did not state hew was being ‘bullied or that ‘he could not face work’ as alleged in your complaint. Nor did he raise issues of violence towards his boss as mentioned in your complaint.
“Matters of factual accuracy under the Code are relevant to statements that were broadcast during the segment and therefore as these statements were not broadcast these alleged statements are not covered by this clause of the Code,” it adds.
He still wants an on-air apology and retraction from the programme and he wants ACMA to force the network’s hand.
“Channel Nine have written a letter. They did apologise but it was a very guarded apology,” he said. “They still maintain that there was a public interest even though we clearly showed they lied on several occasions. The complaint that I put into ACMA was that I wasn’t happy with their letter.”
The broadcast has had a demonstrable effect on his work practices and he is concerned about reputational damage.
“Sometimes it’s what’s unsaid what gives it away. There are some people even still in this clinic, who have seen A Current Affair part one, that still partly believe it, oddly enough. That’s why programmes like A Current Affair will always do okay, because people want to hear bad stories.
“I don’t think it’s affected my patient numbers but I certainly had a number of comments from patients about it. You just wonder if they think I’m a bit of a joker and there are times where I feel a bit paranoid.
“I had a psychiatrist come in to see me and he wanted a medical certificate and I thought he was a plant. So these things play on your mind. I don’t feel, to be honest, that I am totally comfortable with new patients now when they come in I’m quite suspicious of them. One of the first things I look at is their bag, where they put the bag – who is with them, why are they here, and did they particularly ask for me?”