Noting the Sunday Age news article ‘Ads loophole putting kids at risk’ published on Sunday, 13 December 2015, the Australian Communications and Media Authority wishes to clarify several matters raised about the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice, which was recently registered by the ACMA (the new code).
Readers of the relevant article may find the following information helpful.
Alcohol advertising restrictions in the new code
The general restriction in the new code is that alcohol advertising is only permitted, in M or MA15+ time zones and, in the evening, not before 8.30pm. There is an exemption for sports programs, however this only applies to sports programs broadcast on weekends and public holidays, not during the week.
These provisions have been substantially the same since broadcasting codes were first required in 1992 and prior to that in broadcasting standards. Therefore it is misleading to refer to any part of them as being a ‘loophole’.
Children’s viewing of sport
The article makes mention of children’s viewing times, and children’s viewing of sport, especially in connection with the above exemption now applying to repeats of sporting matches.
Under the new code, there is no change to the rules about alcohol in live sporting events, particularly the special events which attract the largest child audiences according to OzTAM data.
In permitting licensees to advertise alcohol in ‘sports programs’ under the new code, it was important to the ACMA that it not apply to sports entertainment programs like The NRL Footy Show.
Replays of events and sports news/analysis programs do not attract the large child audience of popular live sporting events such as NRL State of Origin games, the AFL Grand Final and the NRL Grand Final.
The impact of submissions on the new code
During the consultation process some submitters argued against maintenance of the exemption outlined above. Others expressed concern about the implications of proposed changes to the M time zone and the fact that this would allow alcohol advertising earlier in the evening (i.e. from 7.30pm each night). All submissions were carefully considered.
The new code addressed this latter concern by ensuring that despite the M zone starting at 7.30pm, alcohol advertisements cannot be broadcast until after 8.30pm (except on weekends and public holidays – but only in sports programs).
Gambling advertising restrictions in the new code
The article refers to gambling restrictions in the new code and also uses a previous quote of the ACMA Chairman about gambling restrictions in the new code out of context.
The Chairman had previously stated that the general gambling restriction was not relevant to sport. However, that statement was made in the context of explaining that the general gambling restrictions are linked to the times and classifications of programs rather than being linked to sport.
To be clear: the new code includes both a general gambling restriction and specific ‘live odds rules’ for live sporting events.
The general gambling restriction provides that:
- Gambling advertising must not be broadcast:
- in any program classified G, C or P between 6.00am and 8.30am or 4.00pm and 7.00pm on any day
- in any program principally directed to Children that is broadcast between 5.00am and 8.30pm on any day.
These new provisions are more effective in restricting children’s exposure to gambling advertising than the previous code, as they are focused on children’s programming across all channels, rather than the former dedicated G time zone on the main channels only, in which relatively little children’s programming is scheduled.
The ‘live odds rules’ provide that, in live sporting events:
- Promotions of betting odds are only permitted before and after ‘play’ of a live sporting event – but commentators are not permitted to deliver these odds.
- Gambling advertising is permitted before and after ‘play’ as well as in scheduled breaks in play (i.e. half-time).
The ACMA is acutely aware of the range of current discussions both in Australia and internationally about the health and social implications of alcohol and gambling misuse.
These are, fundamentally, public health and welfare issues.
Accordingly, the ACMA considers that moves to increase regulation of advertising of legal products and activities such as alcohol and gambling (including any de-coupling of alcohol advertising from sport) are best considered as part of a holistic, whole of government and platform neutral initiative.
The ACMA would, of course, cooperate with any such whole of government initiative.
16 December 2015