15 January 2010
ACMA calls on the commercial radio industry to develop new codes for live hosted entertainment programs
The Australian Communications and Media Authority is calling on the commercial radio industry to strengthen community safeguards for participants in live hosted entertainment programs or face new regulatory measures.
Released today, the ACMA’s report on its investigation into the adequacy of community safeguards for participants in live hosted entertainment programs identifies that there is community concern about the treatment of participants in such programs—and that the concern is greater when the participant is a child.
’The ACMA recognises that commercial radio needs the flexibility to provide attractive and innovative programming to attract and retain audiences. However, the industry must also be responsive to issues of community concern and address them as and when they emerge,’ said Chris Chapman, Chairman of the ACMA.
’The changes to the commercial radio codes that the ACMA has suggested are designed to ensure that new practices are introduced which specifically and meaningfully address these concerns, especially in relation to the treatment of children participating in commercial radio programs,’ Mr Chapman said.
The ACMA is now calling on the commercial radio industry to develop new codes that include provisions:
- seeking to prevent the exploitation of participants in commercial radio programs
- ensuring the radio industry has practices and processes in place that provide safeguards for participants in commercial radio programs and are transparent to the public; and
- dealing with children as participants in commercial radio programs, including the requirement that the best interests of the child are a licensee’s key consideration, irrespective of any consent given.
If these community concerns are not addressed in a timely manner under the co-regulatory scheme enshrined in the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (the BSA), the ACMA retains its power to determine a program standard, under section 125 of the BSA.
The ACMA’s investigation report, Live hosted entertainment radio programs: adequacy of community safeguards for the protection of participants can be accessed on the ACMA’s website.
Media contact: Donald Robertson, Media Manager on (02) 9334 7980.
On 11 August 2009, the ACMA commenced an investigation, under section 170 of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (the BSA), into whether current industry practice and regulatory arrangements provide adequate protections for participants in live hosted commercial radio programs.
The ACMA’s decision to investigate this matter was in part prompted by the public reaction to the 29 July 2009 broadcast of the Kyle and Jackie O Breakfast Show on 2Day FM Sydney, in which a 14 year-old child was attached to a lie-detector and asked questions about her sexual conduct and truancies. The broadcast, in addition to the results of the ACMA’s commissioned research Attitudes to Radio Content 2009 and the recent rise in complaints about commercial radio content, highlighted potentially broader issues about the treatment of participants and subjects in some types of live hosted entertainment programs on commercial radio.
Terms of reference
The ACMA’s investigation considered 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. The investigation’s focus was on genres of particular concern—stunts, prank calls, competitions and challenges.
The investigation considered:
- 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.
- any other relevant matters.
The current regulatory framework
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 codes) were developed by Commercial Radio Australia (CRA) and its stakeholders.
The current versions of the codes were registered by the Australian Broadcasting Authority (the ABA) in September 2004. The codes contain a mechanism for ongoing review so that they continue to reflect community standards. In accordance with this practice, a review of the codes commenced in 2007. This process is advanced. The ACMA section 170 investigation is separate to, but may inform, the finalisation of this process.
The BSA 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 BSA empowers the ACMA to determine a program standard.
Particularly relevant to this investigation, the current codes provide:
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.
- 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:
- 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:
- 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:
- that person has been informed in advance or a reasonable person would be aware that the words may be broadcast; or
- 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.