The Broadcasting and Datacasting Services (Parental Lock) Technical Standard 2010 (the parental lock standard) requires particular digital television reception equipment to have parental lock functionality. The parental lock standard requires equipment such as integrated digital televisions, digital television set-top boxes, personal video recorders and distribution devices (used to distribute television services among multiple connected televisions in apartment buildings, hospitals, nursing homes etc.) to:
- have parental lock capabilities, or
- in the case of distribution devices, distribute information that enables the parental lock capabilities in connected domestic reception equipment to operate.
What is parental lock?
Parental lock is a feature of digital television receivers that allows controlled access to programs based on their classification, for example, G, PG, M or MA. The feature may be used by parents and guardians to protect their children from inappropriate or harmful content on television.
Who is required to comply with the parental lock standard?
Anyone who supplies domestic digital television reception equipment should ensure that equipment they supply meets any requirements in the standard that apply. The specific types of domestic digital television receivers covered by the standard are described in sections 7, 8 and 9 of the standard however a brief description has been included below.
For the purposes of the parental lock standard, the term supply has the same meaning as in the Trade Practices Act 1974. That is, the meaning of the term includes supply (including re-supply) by way of sale, exchange, lease, hire or hire-purchase. Situations where a person would be considered to have supplied equipment include:
- an Australian-based manufacturer in Australia who sells equipment in Australia
- an Australian-based importer who sells equipment to a retailer on a wholesale basis, or directly to a consumer
- a retailer who sells equipment to a consumer.
Relationship to other regulatory arrangements
Though the parental lock standard is a mandatory standard there are no associated labelling and record-keeping requirements such as those that apply under the ACMA’s electromagnetic compatibility and telecommunications equipment regulatory regimes.
Equipment subject to the parental lock standard
There are a number of different types of domestic digital receiver, the requirements to some extent depend upon the type of receiver and its functionality (in the standard the requirements are specified for specific items of equipment in sections 7, 8 and 9). Generally it is safe to assume that Integrated digital televisions, set-top boxes and personal video recorders must have parental lock when viewing FTA transmissions. In general terms the requirements are:
- domestic digital receivers must have parental lock capabilities
- parental lock capabilities must include the ability to identify the classification code that applies to a television program by using the program classification information for the program (this information is contained in the present following information of the SI data in the DVB-T transport stream)
- parental lock capabilities must include the ability to identify the classification code that applies to datacasting content by using the program classification information for the content
- parental lock capabilities must be able to be set by the user of the receiver so that the user can choose to make the receiver block any programs and datacasting content with a classification code of:
(a) PG or higher
(b) M or higher
(c) MA or higher.
Some receivers will offer the capacity to select other categories of classification such as P, C, G, MAV etc and this is acceptable provided that as a minimum the categories mentioned above are included.
More detailed guidance about the meaning of the term 'domestic digital television receiver' is available in the explanatory statement to the parental lock standard.
The standard specifies requirements for domestic digital television receivers that can operate only when used with another device, and are not connected to a mains electricity supply other than through such a device.
Section 8 requires that such equipment must, when used with software supplied with the equipment, have parental lock capabilities. Equipment to which section 8 applies includes:
- modular reception equipment designed to operate as a domestic digital television receiver when used in conjunction with a gaming console (e.g., PlayTV, which is designed to operate in conjunction with the Sony PlayStation 3)
- peripheral component interconnect (PCI) or universal serial bus (USB) connected modular reception equipment designed to operate as a domestic digital television receiver when used in conjunction with a laptop or home computer.
This type of ancillary equipment that includes digital television receivers is required to have parental lock functionality when used with the software supplied with the device. The ACMA does not expect that the parental lock function would necessarily continue to operate when an end user elects to use third party software to drive the device.
The ACMA is concerned to ensure that digital televisions that are connected to antenna distributions systems in multi unit premises have access to the information contained in the broadcast transmissions that will allow parental lock to function. While for many broadband amplifiers used in antenna cabling distruibution systems this is not an issue some mast head or distribution amplifiers break down and reconstruct the digital signal for reticulation.
Section 9 of the standard applies to domestic digital television receivers that are an amplifier or distribution device used in association with the reception of digital television services. Section 9 requires that all such equipment must, when redistributing services, include the program classification information necessary to enable the parental lock capabilities to operate in the connected receiver(s). Equipment to which section 9 applies includes ‘head-end’ equipment used to enable reception of digital television and datacasting services in locations that contain multiple receivers such as apartment buildings, nursing homes, hotels, pubs, clubs and other such venues.
Section 10 of the standard exempts certain equipment from the requirement to comply with the standard:
- receivers that were supplied for the first time before 4 February 2011
- receivers that are imported into Australia for the sole purpose of being exported.
For the purpose of establishing whether the first exemption above applies to an item of equipment, all items of a particular model of equipment are treated generically. That is, if a single item of a particular model of equipment was supplied before 4 February 2011 (and therefore covered by the exemption), then every item of that model of equipment is covered by the exemption.
More detailed guidance about how sections 7, 8, 9 and 10 of the parental lock standard are intended to operate is available in the explanatory statement to the parental lock standard.
Enforcement action and penalties
The requirement to comply with the parental lock standard only applies to equipment first supplied to market after 4 February 2011.
Offence and civil penalty provisions in relation to the parental lock standard are set out in subsections 130B(2) and 130B(3) of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992. Contraventions of these provisions may be subject to pecuniary penalties of up to $165,000.