The Broadcasting Services Act 1992 establishes a framework that combines direct regulation through standards and legislation with co-regulation through the development and registration of industry codes of practice. Before registering an industry code, the ACMA must be satisfied that the code provides appropriate community safeguards for the matters covered.
The ACMA established the Contemporary community safeguards inquiry to explore and establish the core principles that should guide the content of contemporary broadcasting codes of practice, noting that the converging media environment and technological changes have caused shifts in the way Australians utilise broadcasting services.
The inquiry aimed to ensure that contemporary codes of practice are fit for purpose in a converging media environment and represent the minimum level of regulatory intervention necessary while still providing appropriate community safeguards.
Scope of the inquiry
The inquiry set out to:
1. Examine the matters that should be appropriately addressed in program-related codes of practice developed by Australian broadcasters, having regard to:
- community experiences and expectations
- changes to broadcasting technologies and business models.
2. Where appropriate, consider any related issues that became apparent in the course of the inquiry.
The ACMA did not, as part of this inquiry, examine the Children’s Television Standards or the Australian Content Standard—save to the extent that these interact with codes of practice.
At the outset, the ACMA expected the inquiry might culminate in specific guidelines for future codes of practice reviews. However, the ACMA has decided to defer further work on the inquiry and instead publish the Consolidated report (Word and PDF).
The Consolidated report summarises the information gathered by the inquiry and provides a high-level overview of the relevant issues and emerging directions.
The report can usefully inform broader discussions about broadcasting regulation in Australia and upcoming code reviews.
As part of the evidence-base to inform the inquiry, the ACMA commissioned and conducted:
- community research exploring the broadcasting experiences and expectations of contemporary citizens
- economic research about the market for content in Australia and the identified costs of current code requirements by industry members.
The relevant research reports were published at the same time as the Consolidated report and are available here.
Other key inquiry documents
1. Speech by ACMA Deputy Chair Richard Bean to the Australian Broadcasting Summit, Sydney (27 February 2013).
2. Issues paper (Word and PDF) released by the ACMA for comment on 3 June 2013 identified areas for input and discussion. The consultation period on the issues paper closed on 15 July 2013. The ACMA received 40 written submissions to this paper as well as a number of ad-hoc submissions and comments.
3. Citizens conversations records of proceedings. During the consultation period on the issues paper, the ACMA convened a series of Citizens Conversations to seek input from the community and industry. These conversations covered the topics of:
- balance and fairness
- classification and decency
4. Research reports informing the Contemporary community safeguards inquiry released by the ACMA on 5 March 2014.
5. Speech by ACMA Deputy Chair Richard Bean to the Australian Broadcasting Digital Media Summit (formerly the Australian Broadcasting Summit) (25 February 2014).
The ACMA is a government agency that aims to make communications and media work in Australia’s public interest. Key to our role is promoting the availability of diverse, high-quality and innovative programming by providers of broadcasting services. Equally important is fostering an environment in which broadcasters respect community standards and provide program material that reflects those standards.
Over recent years, the ACMA has developed its thinking about the challenges of regulating in a converged and increasingly complex world. The ACMA’s influential discussion papers Broken concepts—The Australian communications legislative landscape, and its companion piece, Enduring concepts—Communications and media in Australia, were valuable inputs into the inquiry, as was the ACMA’s research paper Connected citizens – Regulatory strategies for a networked society and information economy.
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