Radio content regulation

Cairns radio breaches accuracy

Cairns Broadcasting Pty Ltd, licensee of 4EL (4CA) has breached the accuracy clause of the Commercial Radio Codes of Practice when it broadcast statements about Indigenous communities in Cape York.

During the Morning Show program on 3 December 2013, presenter John MacKenzie said that crime rates in Aboriginal Communities in Cape York were ‘30 times greater than ours.’

The reference was made during a discussion with the Queensland Minister for Housing and Public Works.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority found the licensee breached clause 2.2 of the Commercial Radio Australia Codes of Practice 2013 as it was not able to demonstrate that in the preparation and presentation of the program it had used reasonable efforts to ensure that the factual statement was reasonably supportable as being accurate.

In response to the breach finding, the licensee undertook to counsel the presenter. Noting that this is the first Code breach by the licensee in six years, the ACMA accepted this response to the breach and has not taken any further action against the licensee.

The ACMA also found the licensee did not breach the complaints-handling clause of the code which stipulates that a licensee is required to respond to complaints within 30 business days of receipt of complaint.

For more information, please see the Backgrounder below or contact: Emma Rossi, Media Manager, (02) 9334 7719 and 0434 652 063 or

Media release 69/2014 - 28 October



The complaint was assessed against clauses 2.2(a) [accuracy] and 5.5 [complaints-handling] of the Commercial Radio Australia Codes of Practice 2013.

Mr Mackenzie’s reference to Aboriginal communities having a crime rate that is ‘30 times greater than ours’ was about the issue of public housing and the new rules that were due to come into effect in 2014 restricting the amount of time a tenant can spend away from their public housing residence.

The relevant statement was:

...we’ve had an influx of people from the communities, thanks largely to the alcohol management plans, but other reasons as well, we’ve had an influx of people coming here for the party and bringing their staggering crime rates from the communities, 30 times greater than ours...

The ACMA found in the context of the discussion, the ordinary, reasonable listener would have understood the reference to ‘the communities’ to mean Indigenous communities of Far North Queensland.

The ACMA operates within a co-regulatory scheme which requires complaints about code matters to be raised with broadcasters first.

The person can only refer the complaint to the ACMA if they do not receive a response from the broadcaster or receive a response which they consider inadequate.

The regulatory framework – broadcasting content regulation

Under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (BSA), Australian radio and television licensees have primary responsibility for ensuring that the material they broadcast reflects community standards. Many aspects of program content are governed by codes of practice developed by industry groups representing the various Australian broadcasting sectors. The ACMA registers codes (other than those of the national broadcasters, the ABC and SBS) once it is satisfied that broadcasters have undertaken public consultation and the codes contain appropriate community safeguards.

ACMA investigations


>          must investigate complaints about compliance with licence conditions (sections 147 and 149 of the BSA)

>          must investigate complaints about compliance with code obligations, where the complainant has complained to the licensee and is dissatisfied with its response (sections 148 and 149 of the BSA)

>          must investigate such matters as it is directed so to do by the Minister for Communications (section 171 of the BSA)

>          may, as matter of discretion, commence an 'own motion' investigation into such matters as it sees fit (section 170 of the BSA).

Additional information about and copies of the ACMA’s published broadcasting investigations reports are available here.

Responding to breaches

Where there has been a breach of code or practice, the ACMA may:


>          agree to accept measures offered by the broadcaster to improve compliance (these measures can include educating staff or changing procedures to improve compliance with the rule(s)

>          agree to accept an enforceable undertaking offered by the broadcaster for the purpose of securing future compliance with the rule(s)

>          impose an additional licence condition.

The ACMA cannot ‘fine’ or ‘prosecute’ a broadcaster for breaching a code, or direct it to do any particular thing (such as broadcast a report of the ACMA’s findings).

Last updated: 11 December 2014

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