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:
- The code provides appropriate community safeguards for the matters that it covers;
- The code was endorsed by a majority of providers of broadcasting services in that section of the industry; and
- Members of the public have been given an adequate opportunity to comment.
Within this context, the Commercial Radio Australia Codes of Practice (the codes) were developed by Commercial Radio Australia (CRA) and its stakeholders, commercial radio licensees.
Review of CRA Codes 2010
In February 2010, following an extensive review of the Codes the ACMA registered Codes 1-3 and 5-8 which relate to matters such as material that should not be broadcast, requirements for accuracy in news and current affairs, privacy protections, the rules for advertising, and a responsive complaints procedure.
The ACMA withheld the registration of Code 4: Australian music in February 2010 because it was not satisfied that CRA had given members of the public an adequate opportunity to comment on its proposal to exempt digital services from the Australian music requirements.
At the ACMA’s request, CRA consulted on the proposed digital exemption for six weeks in February and March 2010 and presented Code 4 to the Authority for registration under the BSA.
While the concerns of the Australian music industry are noted, in deciding to accept the Code for registration the ACMA had regard to the following considerations:
- Code 4 provides for the broadcast of Australian music on analog and digital-simulcast services. The level of Australian music has not been changed.
- Code 4 maintains the functions of the Australian Music Performance Committee (AMPCOM) and provides a mechanism for resolving disputes about the appropriateness of a licensee’s nomination of category of broadcasting service (which determines the level of Australian music that the licensee is required to broadcast) under Code 4.3.
- The application of the exemption for digital-only services will be reviewed with the next material review of the Codes scheduled to commence in 2013.
- Digital-only services are defined in the Codes as services broadcast using DAB+ technology and not also simulcast in analog. This means that digital services that simulcast an analog service will continue to broadcast the level of Australian music applicable (under Code 4.3) to that analog service.
- There are no immediate plans to switch-off analog radio and any decision to do so would involve extensive consideration of the application of the current regulations for Australian music, including the exemption.
- Providing an exemption for digital-only services from Australian content requirements is consistent with the approach taken by the Government for Australian content rules with respect to digital television services.
- Providing an exemption enables licensees the flexibility to experiment with programming formats, for example event channels which are broadcast in conjunction with major artists’ Australian tours.
- The Codes set out a regulatory scheme applicable to the commercial radio industry. The Codes were developed by CRA, the industry group representing Australia’s commercial radio industry. The ACMA is satisfied that the Codes were endorsed by a majority of commercial radio broadcasters.
- CRA undertook two rounds of public consultation on its proposed Codes, totalling 12 weeks.
- CRA sought comments from the public on the draft Codes, including a draft Code 4, for a period of 6 weeks in January-February 2009.
- A further 6 week consultation was undertaken in February-March 2010. At the request of the ACMA, CRA sought comments from the public on the proposed exemption for digital-only services.