Catching Milat compliance investigations
The Australian Communications and Media Authority has investigated complaints about Channel Seven Adelaide Pty Ltd’s broadcasts of the mini-series, Catching Milat, and two related program promotions aired in the G classified program Better Homes and Gardens. The investigations concerned Seven’s compliance with the classification provisions of the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice 2010.
The ACMA found that Seven:
Each of the promotions, which aired at 7.30pm on 15 and 22 May this year on 7Two, exceeded the classification requirements due to the frequency and intensity of their content. The ACMA found that cumulatively, the promotions exceeded a very mild viewing impact and had more than a very low sense of threat and menace to children.
As a result of the findings, Seven will use the ACMA’s decision to assist all staff involved in classification, program promotions and scheduling to better understand the particular code obligations.
Taking into account Seven’s compliance history in relation to such matters, the ACMA considers these actions address the compliance issues raised by the investigation.
For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact: Emma Rossi, Media Manager, (02) 9334 7719 and 0434 652 063 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Relevant code provisions
The ACMA has investigated the broadcast material against the following provisions of the Code:
SECTION 2: CLASSIFICATION
Classification of Other Material
2.4 All other material for broadcast: Subject to Clauses 2.3 and 2.4.1, all other material for broadcast must be classified according to the Television Classification Guidelines (set out in Appendix 4) or, where applicable, the stricter requirements of Section 3: Program Promotions and Section 6: Classification and Placement of Commercials.
SECTION 3: PROGRAM PROMOTIONS
3.1 This section is intended to ensure:
3.1.2 higher classified programs are only to be promoted elsewhere in the G and PG viewing periods if the excerpts shown comply in every respect with the classification criteria of those viewing periods and with the more stringent content restrictions specified in Clauses 3.8 and 3.9.
Restrictions in G Viewing Periods and in Certain Other G Programs
3.8 Special restrictions apply to the content of program promotions in G viewing periods, or in G programs which are scheduled to start at 3.30 pm on a weekday, or which are broadcast between 7.00 pm and 8.30 pm on any day. All such program promotions must comply with the G classification requirements set out in paragraph 2 of Appendix 4, and in addition must include no material which involves any of the following:
3.8.7 anything which has more than a very low sense of threat or menace;
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 that the licensee will use the ACMA’s Investigation Report and findings within staff training to assist staff to better understand the Code requirements and ensure future compliance.
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.
The papers in this series, Decency, classification, and harm and offence; Fairness, impartiality and viewpoints; and Accuracy, are available here.
The ACMA has elaborated on its findings in relation to classification investigations within the Investigation concepts—Decency, classification and harm and offence paper.