11 August 2009
ACMA to investigate adequacy of community safeguards for live-hosted entertainment programs on commercial radio
The Australian Communications and Media Authority will investigate whether the Commercial Radio Codes of Practice (the code) and existing industry practices provide sufficient safeguards for participants and subjects in live-hosted entertainment programs on commercial radio.
‘Recent public concern in relation to an episode of the Kyle and Jackie O Show, broadcast by 2Day FM, has highlighted broader issues about the treatment of participants and subjects involved in ‘stunt’ or ‘prank’ calls, competitions and challenges on commercial radio,’ said Chris Chapman, Chairman of the ACMA.
‘The ACMA acknowledges that the broadcasting sector should generally be able to experiment with program genres and styles which may be attractive to its audiences. However, the strength of community concern expressed about the practices of some live-hosted entertainment programs and the ACMA’s own assessments indicate that there is emerging evidence that the current regulatory arrangements may not be keeping pace with industry practice and community standards.’
The ACMA investigation will be conducted under section 170 of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (the BSA) and will operate in addition to any specific investigation that the ACMA may undertake into the recent episode of the Kyle and Jackie O Show concerning a lie detector being used on a minor.
‘Under the co-regulatory framework enshrined in the Broadcasting Services Act, a code complaint into the recent incident on the Kyle and Jackie O Show would, in the normal course, be dealt with between a complainant and the licensee, with the ACMA then commencing an investigation if it receives notification from a complainant that he or she is not satisfied with 2Day FM’s response,’ Mr Chapman said.
The ACMA expects broadcasters to deal with matters of such strong community concern quickly and effectively. The ACMA will be considering very carefully the actions taken by the licensee to address the concerns of the community about this incident.
In exploring this issue, the Authority is seeking to take a broad approach which considers industry practice generally, current community concerns and attitudes and the responsiveness of industry to these concerns.
The ACMA is calling for submissions from the public and the industry and will consider all relevant information and evidence. The ACMA will also consider existing and commissioned research and have regard to international experience, including findings from a broader research study undertaken by the ACMA earlier this year relating to this matter.
At the conclusion of the investigation, the ACMA will determine whether any change to the current regulatory arrangements is required. The ACMA expects to work closely with industry to expedite this investigation and expects that it will be concluded by December 2009.
The terms of reference for this investigation and information about making a submission are available on the ACMA’s website. The closing date for submissions is 30 September 2009.
Media contact: Donald Robertson, Media Manager on (02) 9334 7980.
Terms of Reference
The ACMA’s investigation will consider whether current regulatory arrangements - in particular the current Commercial Radio Codes of Practice - are providing appropriate community safeguards in relation to the treatment of participants and subjects (and in particular children), in live-hosted entertainment programs on commercial radio. This investigation will focus on genres of particular concern – stunts, prank calls, competitions and challenges.
The investigation will consider:
- The level and specific nature of community concern in relation to these types of program elements using the facts and circumstances in the recent 2Day FM episode as a key case study;
- The practices, processes and protections already in place in the industry in relation to participants and subjects in such programming elements and in particular, to children;
- Whether industry practices and provisions in the industry’s code are sufficient to meet the community’s concerns in this area;
- If not, what additional regulatory arrangements would need to be put in place and what would be the most effective regulatory response; and
- Any other relevant matters.
The current regulatory framework
The Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (the BSA) establishes a co-regulatory scheme which sets out roles for industry and government with respect to the way program content is to be regulated.
The scheme allows the various broadcasting industry sectors, within certain parameters, to develop and take responsibility for compliance with their own programming guidelines, in the form of codes of practice. Section 123 of the BSA permits the development of broadcasting industry codes of practice.
The ACMA’s role is to register codes of practice developed by the relevant section of the broadcasting industry. Before registering a code, the ACMA must be satisfied that (amongst other matters) the code provides appropriate community safeguards.
Within this context, the Commercial Radio Australia Codes of Practice (the code) was developed by Commercial Radio Australia (CRA) and its stakeholders.
The current version of the code was registered by the Australian Broadcasting Authority (the ABA) in September 2004. The code contains a mechanism for ongoing review so that it continues to reflect community standards. In accordance with this practice, a review of the code was commenced in 2007. This process is advanced. The ACMA section 170 investigation is separate to but may inform any finalisation of this process.
The Act provides additional safeguards for those circumstances where the ACMA becomes satisfied that existing codes of practice fail to provide appropriate community safeguards, or where no code of practice has been developed. Under those circumstances, the Act empowers the ACMA to determine a program standard.
Code of Practice 1: Programs Unsuitable for Broadcast
1.1 The purpose of this Code is to prevent the broadcast of programs which are unsuitable, having regard to prevailing community standards and attitudes
Program Content and Language, including Sex and Sexual Behaviour
1.5 (a) All program content must meet contemporary standards of decency, having regard to the likely characteristics of the audience of the licensee’s service.
(b) The gratuitous use in a program of language likely to offend the anticipated audience for that program must be avoided.
Code of Practice 2: News and Current Affairs Programs
The purpose of this Code is to promote accuracy and fairness in news and current affairs programs.
2.1 News programs (including news flashes) broadcast by a licensee must:
(d) not use material relating to a person’s personal or private affairs, or which invades an individual’s privacy, unless there is a public interest in broadcasting such information.
2.2 In the preparation and presentation of current affairs programs, a licensee must ensure that:
(e) respect is given to each person’s legitimate right to protection from unjustified use of material which is obtained without an individual’s consent or other unwarranted or intrusive invasions of privacy.
Code of Practice 6: Interviews and Talkback Programs
The purpose of this Code is to prevent the unauthorised broadcast of statements by identifiable persons
6.1 A licensee must not broadcast the words of identifiable persons unless:
(a) that person has been informed in advance or a reasonable person would be aware that the words may be broadcast; or
(b) in the case of words which have been recorded without the knowledge of the person, that person has subsequently, but prior to the broadcast, expressed consent to the broadcast of the words.