The Australian Communications and Media Authority has found that Network TEN Sydney Pty Ltd (Ten) breached the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice 2015 (the Code) for showing images exceeding a PG classification.
The ACMA’s investigation concerned the program, Studio 10, broadcast on 1 January 2016, which was classified Parental Guidance Recommended (PG) by Ten. During the program a segment featured discussion about a ‘sex tape’ scandal from 1988 and included two inset still images that appeared to have been originally sourced from video footage of the tape.
The ACMA found that Ten breached the Code as the material was not correctly classified in accordance with the criteria set out at Appendix 1 of the Code for the PG classification and was not broadcast in an appropriate time zone.
From the outset of the investigation, Ten conceded that the still images exceeded the PG classification of the program and that the broadcast had occurred due to human error. Ten also indicated it has taken a number of steps to minimise the likelihood of such a breach occurring in the future, including the implementation of new operating procedures and formal specific Code training with Studio 10 staff.
Taking into account Ten’s compliance history in relation to such matters, the ACMA considers these actions address the compliance issues raised by the investigation.
For more information please see the Backgrounder below or contact: Emma Rossi, Media Manager, on (02) 9334 7719, 0434 652 063 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Media release 26/2016 - 1 June
Relevant code provision
The ACMA has investigated the broadcast material against the following provisions of the Code:
2.1 Classification – General rules
2.1.1 Subject to the exceptions in section 2.3, all Programs and non-Program material (including Program Promotions) must be:
- (a) classified in accordance with the criteria set out at Appendix 1; and
- (b) broadcast in accordance with the classification zones set out at section 2.2.
2.2 Classification zones
2.2.1 PG Classification zone. Material that has been classified C, P, G or PG may be broadcast at any time.
Appendix 1: Television Classification Guidelines
These Guidelines apply to all broadcast material required to be classified, except for Films (see clause 2.3.1).
Using these guidelines: essential principles
The suitability of material for broadcast will depend on the context, frequency and intensity of key elements such as violence, sexual behaviour, nudity and coarse language, and on the time of day at which it is broadcast. It will also depend on such factors as the merit of the production, the purpose of a sequence, the tone, the camera work, the relevance of the material, and the treatment; be it dramatic, comedic or documentary.
These factors must be all taken into account and carefully weighed. This means that some actions, depictions, themes, subject matter, treatments or language may meet current community standards of acceptability in one Program, but in another Program may require a higher classification, or be unsuitable for television. In other circumstances sequences that clearly depict comedy or slapstick behaviour may reduce the classification.
The Parental Guidance Recommended (PG) Classification
Material classified PG may contain adult themes or concepts but must be mild in impact and remain suitable for children to watch with supervision. All elements must be justified by context.
Sex: Depictions of and verbal reference to sexual activity must be restrained.
Nudity: Restrained depictions of nudity are permitted.
Themes: The treatment of social or domestic conflict and psychological themes should be carefully handled.
The regulatory framework: broadcasting content regulation
Under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (BSA), Australian radio and television licensees have primary responsibility for ensuring that the material they broadcast reflects community standards. Many aspects of program content are governed by codes of practice developed by industry groups representing the various Australian broadcasting sectors. The ACMA registers codes (other than those of the national broadcasters, the ABC and SBS) once it is satisfied that broadcasters have undertaken public consultation and the codes contain appropriate community safeguards.
The ACMA may investigate in the public interest:
- following a complaint about compliance with the BSA or licence conditions;
- following a complaint about compliance with code obligations, where the complainant has complained to the licensee and is dissatisfied with its response; or
- on its 'own motion' into compliance with the BSA, licence conditions or code obligations.
Additional information about, and copies of, the ACMA’s published broadcasting investigations reports are available here.
Responding to breaches
Where there has been a breach of a code of practice, the ACMA may:
- agree to accept measures offered by the broadcaster to improve compliance (these measures can include educating staff or changing procedures to improve compliance with the rule(s))
- agree to accept an enforceable undertaking offered by the broadcaster for the purpose of securing future compliance with the rule(s)
- impose an additional licence condition.
The ACMA cannot ‘fine’ or ‘prosecute’ a broadcaster for breaching a code, or direct it to do any particular thing (such as broadcast a report of the ACMA’s findings).
Given the compliance history of the broadcaster in relation to such matters, in this case, the ACMA has accepted the measures taken by Ten to minimise the likelihood of such a breach occurring again, including formal specific Code training with Studio 10 staff.
Investigation concepts series
The ACMA has published an Investigation concepts series to share the insights developed through its investigations work.
The series sheds light on key clauses of the broadcast industry codes of practice, which often employ a range of general terms, phrases and concepts about which there can be questions of interpretation.
The objective of the series is to identify how various important principles of broadcast content regulation have been clarified or applied in ACMA decisions.