Industry library


Investigation concepts series


The ACMA regulates the broadcasting sector in Australia, including commercial and community radio, and free-to-air and subscription television. The ACMA can investigate code complaints first made to broadcasters, where the complainant remains dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response.

The various broadcast industry codes often employ general terms and phrases such as ‘accuracy’, ‘impartiality’ and 'decency', about which there can be questions of interpretation. One task of the ACMA is giving meaning to such terms and deciding which broadcasts, viewed in context, cross the line between acceptable and unacceptable.

The ACMA is publishing this Investigation concepts series to share the insights developed through its investigations work. The objective of the series is to identify how various important principles of broadcast content regulation have been exemplified, clarified or applied in ACMA decisions.

The papers in this series are ‘living’ documents, and the ACMA regularly updates the information in each to keep them current and helpful to the broadcasting industry and citizens alike. The most recent updates were made in October 2016.

Decency, classification, and harm and offence

The third paper in the Investigation concepts series considers the requirements for decency, classification, and harm and offence, as set out in the various broadcasting codes.

Matters covered in the paper include:

  • the requirements relating to decency, classification, and harm and offence
  • the way the ACMA ‘operationalises’ these requirements in its work, while considering community standards and expectations in broadcasting
  • the shifting and evolving nature of ‘community standards’ over time.

Fairness, impartiality and viewpoints

The second paper in the Investigation concepts series considers the requirements for fairness, impartiality and viewpoints that are set out in industry codes of practice. 

Matters covered in the paper include:

  • content that attracts the fairness, impartiality and viewpoints obligations
  • 'principal relevant' viewpoints, 'diversity of viewpoints' and 'significant viewpoints'
  • the distinction/s between balance and impartiality
  • factors relevant to the consideration of impartiality and fairness
  • the fair treatment of individuals.


The first in the series, Investigation concepts—Accuracy,  covers accuracy in news, current affairs and other factual programs. The paper is intended to give stakeholders a better understanding of the ACMA’s approach to the broadcasting code provisions by drawing out the similarities and differences in the codes and their application.

Matters covered in the paper include:

  • content and programs that attract the accuracy obligations
  • assessing the meaning of factual material
  • reasonable efforts to ensure accuracy
  • obligations to correct errors in accuracy.


Name of report


Investigation concepts—Decency, classification, and harm and offence

604 kB

Investigation concepts—Fairness, impartiality and viewpoints, April 2015 update

412 kB

Investigation concepts—Accuracy, October 2016 update

473 kB

Last updated: 10 November 2016

Most commented

Most read

Back to top