26 June 2007
ACMA calls for submissions on issues paper as part of its review of Children’s Television Standards
The Australian Communications and Media Authority has released an issues paper as part of its review of the Children’s Television Standards on free-to-air commercial television. ACMA invites public comment on its Children’s Television Standards Review - Issues Paper by 17 August 2007.
‘ACMA is reviewing the Children’s Television Standards, given that they have not been reviewed for some time,’ said Chris Chapman, ACMA Chairman. ‘We recognise that television content standards—such as the Children’s Television Standards —will need to be comprehensively reviewed over the coming years as the media landscape changes but consider that useful improvements can be made to aspects of the standards now.’
The issues paper outlines key issues to be considered in the review including whether:
- the current Children’s (C) and Preschool (P) program quota levels, classification criteria and time bands are still appropriate today;
- the current classification process for C and P programs impedes innovation in children’s programming; and
- the standards should be amended to specifically address the issue of food advertising directed at children.
ACMA recognises the strong interest in, and debate on, the role of food advertising on television and its impact on children’s health and the paper raises some options for consideration. ACMA has also released a literature review, which has informed development of the issues paper and should provide intending contributors with a guide to some diverse perspectives.
ACMA is also interested in exploring viable options that might help start building a bridge to the future Australian media environment and is therefore interested in whether, for example, a tradeable obligations scheme would be useful and still meet the objective of specifically catering for children in programming.
Instructions on how to make submissions are included in the issues paper. ACMA will publish all submissions as they are received on its website, subject to consideration of any confidentiality claims.
Following the public consultation period, recommendations for any changes will be made and a redrafted Children’s Television Standards released for public consultation, as required under legislation. ACMA expects that the review will be finalised in the first half of 2008.
The terms of reference and the issues paper are available on ACMA’s website.
Media contact Donald Robertson, ACMA Media Manager (02) 9334 7980.
Key elements of the Children’s Television Standards
The objectives of the Children’s Television Standards are identified in the Explanatory Memorandum as:
- To provide for children to be specifically catered for in programming, including Australian programming; and
- To provide for the protection of children from possible harmful effects of television.
In working to achieve the objectives outlined above, the Children’s Television Standards currently require commercial television licensees to broadcast a minimum number of hours of both children’s (C) and pre-school (P) classified programs, referred to as C and P quotas. The C quota also includes sub-quotas for Australian children’s drama programs.
In order for programs to count towards these quotas they must meet certain provisions outlined in the Children’s Television Standards. These include the requirement for the programs to be classified by ACMA prior to being broadcast as either C or P against the CTS 2 criteria and the requirement for programs to be shown within specified time bands.
In addition to requirements about programming, the Children’s Television Standards contain provisions relating to the broadcasting of advertisements, promotions, station identifications, community service announcements, news flashes and announcements during C and P broadcast times. Provisions relating to advertising include restrictions on the amount, content and nature of advertisements. The Children’s Television Standards also prohibit the broadcasting of either program or non-program material that is deemed unsuitable for children during designated C and P viewing periods.
In addition to public consultation, three key research projects are contributing to the review of the Children’s Television Standards:
Children’s Viewing Patterns on Commercial, Free-to-air and Subscription Television
ACMA has undertaken an analysis of OzTAM ratings data, which uses data from 2001, 2005 and 2006 to provide information about children’s television viewing trends, including the times when children are watching television and the type of programs they are watching.
Children’s Television Production Project
Research into children’s television production was commissioned by ACMA and was undertaken by independent researchers Kate Aisbett and Jane Gould, from Entertainment Insights. This research included a review of the funding structure of children’s television production in Australia and qualitative interviews with producers, representatives from funding bodies and network executives to identify and explore key issues for children’s television.
Television Advertising to Children
ACMA also commissioned an independent researcher, Dr Jeffrey Brand, Director of the Bond University Centre for New Media Research and Education, to review the research literature examining television advertising to children, including the relationship between children’s exposure to television advertising and their food and beverage preferences.
The requirement for children’s television standards is set out in the Broadcasting Services Act 1992. The current Children’s Television Standards were made by the former Australian Broadcasting Tribunal (ABT) and took effect on 1 January 1990. Extensive community and industry consultation was undertaken at that time and the ABT tried to balance:
- public interest concerns that children's special viewing needs be met;
- the commercial television industry's reliance on advertising revenue; and
- the child audience's lack of earning or 'buying' capacity.
On 1 January 1996, the Children’s Television Standards were amended to incorporate changes to the Australian Content Standard. The changes to the Children’s Television Standards incorporated the following requirements:
- a progressive increase of quality first release Australian children's drama to 32 hours each year by 1998;
- eight hours of repeat Australian children's drama each year; and
- all P programs must be Australian.
On 26 February 1999, the former Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA) determined variations to the Children’s Television Standards, Children's Television Standards (Variation) 1999 (No.1) which took effect on 1 March 1999. The variations resulted from the new Australian content standard, Broadcasting Services (Australian Content) Standard 1999 and allowed for New Zealand programs and Australian/New Zealand programs to be treated equally with Australian programs for the purpose of compliance with the standard. This was in accordance with the Australia New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement (the CER).
Further variations were made to the Children’s Television Standards in 2002, following a review of the Australian Content Standard. The changes related to the removal of the 'primary school' focus, in the definition of 'children' and to the obligation of commercial television licensees to broadcast Australian children's drama.
In 2005, the ABA reviewed the Children’s Television Standards to clarify technical drafting and minor policy issues. The variations:
- defined key terms such as ‘C period’, ‘C material’, ‘P period’, ‘P material’, ‘live coverage’, and ‘community service announcement’;
- adopted consistent terminology; and
- ensured that the Children’s Television Standards were consistent with recent variations to the Australian Content Standard in relation to Australian C drama quotas.
The current Children’s Television Standards and terms of reference for the current Children’s Television Standards review and the issues paper can be accessed here.
Use and publication of submissions
ACMA prefers to receive submissions which are not claimed as confidential. In circumstances where submitters wish to provide information in confidence, they are asked to identify the material over which confidentiality is claimed and provide written explanation for confidentiality claims.
ACMA will consider each claim for confidentiality on a case-by-case basis. If ACMA accepts a confidentiality claim, it will not publish the confidential information unless required to do so by law.
Unless exempt, submissions provided to ACMA may be released under the Freedom of Information Act 1982. ACMA may also be required to release submissions for other reasons, including for the purpose of parliamentary processes or where otherwise required by law (for example, a court subpoena). While ACMA seeks to consult submitters of confidential information before that information is provided to another body or agency, ACMA cannot guarantee that confidential information will not be released through these or other legal means.