TV content regulation

Today Tonight in code breach

The Australian Communications and Media Authority has found that Southern Cross Television Pty Ltd, licensee of TNT Tasmania, has breached the personal information and privacy provision of the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice 2010 in a segment of Today Tonight.

The current affairs item reported a dispute over the sale of a house. During the report, which aired on 12 November 2013, the privacy of the couple living on the property was intruded upon by filming through a window and inside the house. Further, the reporter named the street and suburb, and footage clearly showed personal information and signatures on a contract relating to the property.

The ACMA was satisfied that the material used in the broadcast:

  • related to the complainant’s personal or private affairs
  • intruded upon the complainant’s seclusion in more than a fleeting way
  • was not readily available from the public domain.

Further, there was no identifiable public interest reason for broadcasting the material. Consent was not obtained.

‘The privacy requirements of the Code are there to protect people’s personal information where there is no clear public interest in disclosure,’ said ACMA Chairman Chris Chapman.

The ACMA found no breach in complaints regarding accuracy and fair representation of viewpoints, or in a second privacy-related complaint about identifying children.

Southern Cross has undertaken to provide a copy of the decision to senior news and current affairs staff and senior management, and to include it in future training sessions. It has also provided a copy of the report to the Seven Network, where it will be circulated to relevant staff and included in future training sessions.

For more information, please see the Backgrounder below or contact: Blake Murdoch, on (02) 9334 7817, 0434 567 391 or

Media release 1/2015 - 21 January


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

The ACMA may:

  • investigate complaints about compliance with the BSA or licence conditions
  • investigate complaints about compliance with code obligations, where the complainant has complained to the licensee and is dissatisfied with its response
  • commence an 'own motion' investigation into compliance with the BSA, licence conditions or code obligations.
  • 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 a code of 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: 03 October 2016

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