Update of the ACMA’s privacy guidelines for broadcasters | ACMA

Update of the ACMA’s privacy guidelines for broadcasters

Consultation closes: 08 July 2016

IFC: 16/2016 Remote and television, changing the channel

Have your say

The updated privacy guidelines were released on 9 September 2016. Taking into account feedback received during the consultation process, the key updates to the guidelines:

  • reflect amendments to codes of practice since 2011;
  • include new case studies of key ACMA privacy investigation decisions over the past five years; and
  • update references to personal information; and clarify the ACMA’s approach to consent, material in the public domain and children’s privacy.

The ACMA received seven submissions to this consultation. Submissions can be accessed from the right hand side index box.

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Draft revised ACMA privacy guidelines for broadcasters 2016

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Under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992, radio and television industry groups develop codes of practice applicable to broadcasting content.

These codes of practice include provisions restricting the use of material relating to a person’s personal affairs or private life or which invades their privacy.

The ACMA’s attitudinal research has indicated that the community considers that privacy safeguards are important in broadcast media and that informed consent and special protections for children are valued1.

Recent law reform proposals have also indicated continuing community concerns over developments in technologies, and the use of social media to invade privacy, and concerns over the misuse of information and the privacy of children2.

The privacy guidelines

The privacy guidelines, introduced by the ACMA in 2005, increase general awareness of privacy obligations under the codes of practice and assist broadcasters to better understand these obligations. The guidelines were last revised in December 2011.

Review in 2011

The 2011 review of the privacy guidelines was the first comprehensive review of the privacy guidelines since their introduction in 2005. That review considered the ACMA’s investigations from 2005 to 2011; amendments to broadcasting codes of practice; developments in case law; and qualitative and quantitative community attitudinal research commissioned by the ACMA.

Opportunity to provide feedback

The proposed revisions to the ACMA’s privacy guidelines for broadcasters include the following changes:

  • Inclusion of references to ‘private life’ in matters protected under codes of practice.(pg. 2)
  • A note that some codes of practice limit complaints about privacy to people (or representatives of people) who consider that their privacy has been intruded upon (pg. 2)
  • Clarification that in some circumstances pixelation will not necessarily be sufficient to de-identify a person (pg. 3)
  • Amendments to the definition of ‘personal information’ (pgs. 3-4)
  • Clarification that consent to an interview does not extend to consent to the use in a broadcast of additional information about the person that invades their privacy (pg. 5)
  • Clarification that material may invade privacy where its nature suggests it has been put into the public domain without the affected person’s knowledge or consent (pg. 5)
  • Clarification that material invading a child’s privacy must be in, and proportionate to, the public interest (pg. 6)
  • Clarification that whether an invasion of privacy is justified in the public interest, will depend on the public interest matters raised in the broadcast (pg. 7)
  • New case studies based on key ACMA findings (Appendix 1).
Footnote 1 

Australians’ views on privacy in broadcast news and current affairs, ACMA August 2011; Community research into broadcasting and media privacy August 2011

Footnote 2 

The Australian Law Reform Commission Final Report into Serious Invasions of Privacy in the Digital Era (September 2014); The South Australian Law Reform Institute Final Report: A Statutory Tort for Invasion of Privacy (March 2016); The NSW Parliamentary Research Service research paper Revenge Pornography, Privacy and the Law (August 2015).