The Australian Communications and Media Authority has agreed to register a new Commercial Radio Industry Code of Practice (the code), submitted by Commercial Radio Australia (CRA), the industry group representing the majority of commercial radio broadcasters.
‘The new code contains robust community safeguards across a range of areas,’ said acting ACMA Chairman, Richard Bean. ‘It incorporates important commitments by radio licensees about accuracy and impartiality in news, privacy, the treatment of participants in live-hosted programs and the broadcast of Australian music. It also requires advertisements to be clearly identifiable.’
CRA will be conducting a six month education campaign by broadcasting community service announcements to inform listeners of changes to the code (accompanied by information on the CRA website).
The new code was developed by CRA. It replaces the previous Commercial Radio Industry Code of Practice, and comes into operation on 15 March 2017.
For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact: Emma Rossi, Media Manager, (02) 9334 7719, 0434 652 063 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Media release 5/2017 - 9 March
Implementation of the new code
The new code takes effect on 15 March 2017.
The co-regulatory framework, code review and development process
A key policy intent of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (the BSA) is that broadcasting sectors are regulated in a manner that enables public interest considerations to be addressed in a way that does not impose unnecessary financial and administrative burdens on broadcasters. The broadcasting sector is essentially governed by a co-regulatory model whereby a sector of the industry develops a code of practice to be registered by the ACMA. The BSA requires the code of practice to be developed and reviewed in consultation with the ACMA and after taking account of any relevant research conducted by the ACMA.
At the conclusion of the review process, the ACMA must include a code in its Register of Codes of Practice if it is satisfied that:
a) the code provides appropriate community safeguards for the matters it covers
b) the code is endorsed by a majority of the providers of broadcasting services in the relevant industry sector
c) there has been adequate public consultation on the code.
Relevant research and publications
Research and publications relevant to this code review include the Contemporary community research inquiry (CCSi) and related research. The CCSi Consolidated report is available here. More detailed information about the CCSi is available at the end of this release.
As part of the evidence base to inform the CCSi, the ACMA commissioned and conducted community research exploring the contemporary broadcasting experiences and expectations of citizens (listeners), as well as economic research about the market for content in Australia and the identified costs for industry members of relevant code requirements. The relevant research reports are available here.
Public consultation on a draft code must take place to allow community concerns to be identified and evaluated.
CRA undertook public consultation on a draft code between 15 April and 28 May 2016 and accepted late submissions until 2 June 2016. Public comment was sought through:
- press advertisements in all states and territories
- a CRA media release
- CRA’s social media channels
- explanatory materials and a draft code were published on the CRA website.
In April 2016, the ACMA also encouraged members of the public to comment on the draft code by publishing a statement on the ACMA website and supporting through social media.
CRA members will undertake an education campaign to support the commencement of the new code. The education campaign will include updates and amendments to code-related information on the Commercial Radio Australia website, including links to the new code.
For a six month period following the commencement of the new code, each licensee will air community service announcements which will highlight key matters included in the code and will provide listeners with information about how to obtain a copy of the code.
Key community safeguards provided in the code
Key community safeguards reflected in the new code include the following:
- Rules about the broadcast of certain material which may be offensive or may distress listeners (for example, unjustifiable language, sexual content, the misuse of alcohol, the use of illegal drugs and depictions of suicide).
- Requirements for news programs to be presented accurately and impartially and not create public panic or cause serious distress.
- Requirements for current affairs programs to distinguish factual material from commentary and analysis as well as ensure that factual material broadcast is reasonably supportable as being accurate. While current affairs programs can take a particular stance on issues, viewpoints should not be misrepresented and opportunities for significant alternative viewpoints on controversial issues of public importance must be provided while the issue has immediate relevance to the community.
- Correction obligations if material facts are inaccurate. Licensees must issue a correction, whether it be in a later episode of the relevant program or comparable program or on an appropriate website (such as the program’s website) or in any other way that is appropriate in all the circumstances.
- Privacy requirements, including that material relating to a person’s personal or private affairs or which invades a person’s privacy, must not be broadcast unless it is in the public interest to do so, or the person has provided consent for the material to be broadcast.
- Advertisements must be identifiable to audiences as advertising material at the time of broadcast.
- Australian music quotas.
- Rules about the broadcast of the words of an identifiable person in interviews and talkback programs, to ensure the person has been appropriately informed or provided consent.
- Rules on live hosted entertainment programs to protect participants and to ensure licensees do not broadcast programs which treat participants in a highly demeaning or highly exploitative manner (including children).
- Restrictions on gambling advertisements (including the promotion of betting odds) during the broadcast of live sporting events.
- Clear complaint handling procedures.
Contemporary Community Safeguards inquiry
The ACMA established the CCSi to explore the matters that should be addressed in a contemporary broadcasting code of practice. The inquiry’s aim was to ensure that codes of practice are fit for purpose in a converging media environment. The inquiry engaged and consulted with industry and citizens about which matters needed to be addressed by broadcasters in their codes in order to provide appropriate community safeguards. It also sought to establish which current protections may no longer be required.
The evidence gathered in the inquiry suggested that there was scope and support for rationalisation, simplification and adaptation to media markets and practices. The concept of ‘shared responsibility’ emerged as particularly pertinent. This is because, in a contemporary environment, the reality is that national governments, industry regulators and industry-specific bodies can no longer do everything. As a consequence, responsibility for media and communications will need to be increasingly shared between government, regulators, industry, suppliers and, importantly, listeners (citizens).
The contemporary media environment and issues affecting existing regulatory requirements were teased out in both an Issues paper and the Final report. Expanding on that process for the purposes of this code review, the following is to be noted:
- There have been considerable technological shifts within the broadcasting sector and media environment more generally over the two decades since broadcasting codes were first introduced. The number of people listening to radio has remained relatively stable over the last 10 years but there have been ongoing changes in listening patterns by different age groups, with internet-delivered content becoming an increasingly prominent feature of Australians’ listening habits.
- Free-to-air commercial radio licensees are facing growing financial and technological pressures as they compete for listener share within an environment featuring a material increase in new content providers. These licensees need programming flexibility if they are to remain successfully responsive to these developments.