You need to complain to the broadcaster first if you are complaining about something covered by a code of practice. This is because the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 establishes a co-regulatory regime, in which broadcasters themselves bear the primary responsibility for the material they broadcast. Most programming matters are covered by a code of practice.
There is a different code of practice for each broadcasting sector, so check the relevant code that applies to the broadcaster that you wish to complain about.
You can refer a complaint about a code matter to the ACMA if you do not receive a response from the station within 60 days, or if you receive a response but consider it inadequate. However, your complaint to the broadcaster has to be made in the way specified in that code. Each code of practice has a section that sets out requirements for the complaint process that applies to that particular broadcasting sector.
Complaints to commercial television stations must be made within 30 days of the broadcast and they must normally be made by mail or via an electronic lodgement form available on the Free TV Australia website:
A complaint to a commercial television station must, amongst other things, be received by the station in order to be a valid code complaint (ie one which can subsequently be referred to the ACMA). If you are posting a complaint to a station, you may wish to send it registered mail, in order to ensure the station receives it.
Complaints to commercial radio stations must contain a clear assertion that the station has broadcast matter which, in your opinion, breaches the Commercial Radio Australia Codes of Practice 2013. Complaints must be made by letter or fax, or via an online electronic complaint form in which identifying information of the complainant is required. Most stations have such a form available on their websites. If you make your complaint more than 30 days after the broadcast, the station is not obliged to respond to it.
Any complaint to any broadcaster must adequately identify the material of concern, eg by giving details such as the date/s of broadcast, and you should explain clearly the nature of your complaint. You are advised to make and keep a copy of any letter you send to a station, for future reference. If you lodge a complaint electronically, you are advised to make and keep a print-out and a record of the time and date your message was sent.
For complaints about the ABC or SBS, see Complaints about the ABC or SBS.
Please include the following documents when referring your complaint to the ACMA:
- a copy of your complaint to the broadcaster
- a copy of the broadcaster’s response (if you receive one)
You can submit your complaint via the broadcasting complaint form.