Children’s television content (programming and advertising) on commercial free-to-air television is regulated by the Children’s Television Standards (the CTS) and the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice (the Code).
Children's programs broadcast by the national broadcasters, the ABC and SBS, and the dedicated children's channels on pay TV are covered by separate codes of practice.
The Children’s Television Standards
Under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (the ACMA) is responsible for making standards for children’s programming on commercial free-to-air television.
The CTS require all commercial television licensees to broadcast 130 hours of material classified as preschool (P) and 260 hours of material classified as children’s (C) each year.
The CTS regulate the content of programs and advertising broadcast during the designated children’s viewing times when C and P material is broadcast.
The current C bands are:
7am-8:30am Monday to Friday
4pm-8:30pm Monday to Friday
7am-8:30pm Saturday, Sunday and school holidays
The current P band is:
Within these time bands, broadcasters must nominate the times at which they will schedule their C and P programs. Check your local television program guides to find out when C and P programs are scheduled.
The CTS specifies that a children’s program:
is made specifically for children or groups of children; and
is entertaining; and
is well produced using sufficient resources to ensure a high standard of script, cast, direction, editing, shooting, sound and other production elements; and
enhances a child's understanding and experience; and
is appropriate for Australian children.
C and P programs can be identified by the following consumer advice symbols:
The CTS don’t allow advertising during the times when P programs are broadcast and limit advertisements during the times when C programs are broadcast to no more than 5 minutes of advertisements in each 30 minute period, except in the case of Australian C drama.
The CTS 2009 also contain provisions regulating:
separation of advertisements and sponsorship announcements
the repetition of advertisements
pressure in advertisements
the clear presentation of advertisements
the use of premium offers in advertising
promotions and endorsements by popular characters
advertising of alcoholic drinks
The CTS prohibit the broadcast of unsuitable material during the times when C and P programs are broadcast, including material that:
demeans any person or group on the basis of ethnicity, nationality, race, gender, sexual preference, religion or mental or physical disability
presents an image in a way which is unduly frightening or unduly distressing to children
depicts unsafe use of a product, or unsafe situations which may encourage children to engage in activities dangerous to them
advertises products or services which have been officially declared unsafe or dangerous by a Commonwealth authority or by an authority having jurisdiction within the licensee’s license area
Making a complaint under the CTS
Complaints about advertising and program material during children’s viewing times when C and P programs are broadcast can be made directly to the ACMA. You can complain to the ACMA by completing the broadcasting complaints form on the ACMA's website.
The Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice
The Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice (the Code) operates alongside program standards and has provisions relating to classification of program material and advertising and promotions to children.
The Code specifies classification zones based on the majority audience normally viewing at that time, with particular regard to the child component.
The General (G) classification is not necessarily intended for children but must be very mild in impact and must not contain matter likely to be unsuitable for children to watch without supervision. Material classified Parental Guidance Recommended (PG) may contain careful presentations of adult themes or concepts but must be mild in impact and remain suitable for children to watch with supervision.
Advertising and program promotions
The Code requires commercials or community service announcements directed to children must exercise special care and judgment and comply with Children’s Television Standards 17-21, which cover: pressure in advertisements; clear presentation; disclaimers and premium offers; and competitions.
The Code specifies advertisements directed to children (younger than 14 years) for food and/or beverages should not encourage or promote an inactive lifestyle; should not encourage or promote unhealthy eating or drinking habits; and must not contain misleading or incorrect information about the nutritional value of the product.
Also, the Code has provisions regulating the promotion of products or services directed to children; premium charge television services in certain programs and promotions and commercials or community service announcements in G and PG programs between 7.00pm and 8.30pm.
The Code specifies no program classified higher than PG is promoted in programs directed mainly to children. Higher classified programs are only to be promoted elsewhere in the G and PG viewing periods if the excerpts shown comply with the classification criteria of those viewing periods, as well as complying with additional requirements set out in the Code.
Making a complaint under the Code
To make a complaint under the Code, you should lodge a written complaint with the broadcaster concerned within 30 days of the broadcast.
You can complain to the ACMA about a matter covered by the Code if:
you have first made your complaint directly to the relevant station; and
the station has not answered your complaint within 60 days; or
you are dissatisfied with the station’s response.