The ACMA conducts investigations into matters related to broadcasting codes of practice, licence conditions and program standards. The ACMA will only investigate complaints where an investigation of the matter/s would be in the public interest.
Most investigations are undertaken in response to complaints. The ACMA will normally not investigate a complaint about a matter that is covered by a code of practice unless the person has first complained to the station involved and has either:
- not received a response within 60 days after making the complaint or
- has received a response within that period but considers that response to be inadequate.
The ACMA can investigate complaints made directly to it if they are about a licensee's compliance with a licence condition or a program standard.
The ACMA can also initiate investigations and conduct investigations at the direction of the Minister for Communications and the Arts.
The ACMA has a range of powers intended to enable it to deal effectively with breaches-all in a manner commensurate with the seriousness of the breach.
Where there has been a breach of a code, the ACMA may accept an enforceable undertaking for the purpose of securing future compliance with the code or impose an additional licence condition requiring a licensee to comply with the codes.
The ACMA may also informally agree to accept measures by broadcasters to improve compliance. For example, the ACMA has on many occasions agreed measures with licensees involving action by them to address compliance problems. Such measures have often succeeded in improving behaviour within licensees (and networks).
If a licensee breaches a licence condition as included in the Broadcasting Services Act 1992, then as alternatives to suspending or cancelling the licence, the ACMA has power to issue a remedial direction requiring compliance, accept an enforceable undertaking, or impose an additional licence condition. The ACMA may bring civil proceedings or criminal proceedings may be brought by the Director of Public Prosecutions. If the ACMA has convincing evidence that codes of practice have failed to provide appropriate community safeguards in relation to a matter, it can determine a new program standard to apply to a particular section of the broadcasting industry.