The ACMA conducts investigations into matters related to broadcasting codes of practice, licence conditions and program standards.
Most investigations are undertaken in response to complaints. The ACMA will normally not investigate a complaint about a matter that is covered by a code of practice unless the person has first complained to the station involved and has either:
- not received a response within 60 days after making the complaint or
- has received a response within that period but considers that response to be inadequate.
The ACMA can investigate complaints made directly to it if they are about a licensee’s compliance with a licence condition or a program standard.
The ACMA can also initiate investigations and conduct investigations at the direction of the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy.
Once an investigation is completed, the ACMA notifies the person who made the complaint of the outcome. Most broadcasting investigation reports are published on this website. From the March - June 2011 quarter, report summaries (including the findings) are published under the Quarterly broadcasting investigations summary section of the ACMA's website (prior to the March - June 2011 quarter, summaries can be found in old copies of the ACMA's newsletter ACMAsphere) and in the ACMA Annual Report.
The ACMA has a range of powers intended to enable it to deal effectively with breaches—all in a manner commensurate with the seriousness of the breach.
Where there has been a breach of a code, the ACMA may accept an enforceable undertaking for the purpose of securing future compliance with the code or impose an additional licence condition requiring a licensee to comply with the codes
The ACMA may also informally agree to accept measures by broadcasters to improve compliance. For example, the ACMA has on many occasions agreed measures with licensees involving action by them to address compliance problems. Such measures have often succeeded in improving behaviour within licensees (and networks).
If licensee breaches a licence condition, then as alternatives to suspending or cancelling the licence, the ACMA has power to issue a remedial direction requiring compliance. In the event that the licensee does not comply with a remedial direction, the ACMA may:
- pursue a civil penalty;
- refer the matter for prosecution as an offence;
- suspend or cancel the licence; or
- at any time, accept an enforceable undertaking (including provisions dealing with compliance with a code).
If the ACMA has convincing evidence that codes of practice have failed to provide appropriate community safeguards in relation to a matter, it can determine a new program standard to apply to a particular section of the broadcasting industry.