31 March 2017
General Television Corporation Pty Ltd (Channel Nine) has breached the Commercial TV Industry Code of Practice 2015 by broadcasting on 9Go! commercials for a gambling service during a program principally directed to children.
An investigation by the Australian and Communications Media Authority found six commercials for the gambling service were shown between 7.30 pm and 8.30 pm during the adventure/fantasy film, The Spiderwick Chronicles, broadcast on 30 September 2016.
Starting at 6.31 pm, the film, an adaptation of a series of books of the same name, was classified PG. The code states that a commercial relating to betting or gambling must not be broadcast during any program broadcast between 5.00 am and 8.30 pm that is principally directed to children.
‘The restriction on gambling adverting was expanded in the 2015 code to address community concern about children’s exposure to betting and gambling advertising,’ said acting ACMA Chairman, Richard Bean.
‘In this case, the commercials encouraged viewers to use an online betting platform to stake money on the outcome of the 2016 AFL Grand Final and the player who would score the first goal in that match. Since the code came into effect in December 2015, these types of commercials cannot be broadcast in programs principally directed to children, regardless of their classification.’
This is the first investigation the ACMA has undertaken that considers the new clause 6.5.1(b) of the 2015 code.
Nine has indicated it has taken a number of steps to minimise the likelihood of a breach occurring in the future. In light of those steps, and taking into account that this is the first breach of this new obligation, the ACMA considers that the compliance issues raised by the investigation have been sufficiently addressed.
Relevant code provision: betting and gambling advertising
The Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice 2015, clause 6.5, betting and gambling, provides that
6.5.1 A commercial relating to betting or gambling must not be broadcast:
- in any program classified G or lower between:
- 6.00 am and 8.30 am; and
- 4.00 pm and 7.00 pm; and
- during any program that is broadcast between 5.00 am and 8.30 pm and principally directed to children.
A child means a person under the age of 15.
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).