ACMA not interested in regulation for its own sake, says Chairman Chapman

The Australian Communications and Media Authority has revoked the Broadcasting Services Standard that deals with disclosure and clear distinction between advertising and program. The Standard that was brought in just a year ago has now been replaced by a Code.

As we explained in March 2012, when the Standard was brought in, a Standard is tougher than a Code of Practice, because a Standard is tied to the stations licence. A station could ultimately lose its licence for breaching a Standard, but cannot for breaching one of the co-regulatory Codes.

The decision is a win for Commercial Radio Australia which has lobbied hard to for the regulator to cut the sector some slack. For its part, the ACMA made a commitment at the end of 2011 that the standard would be revoked if the commercial radio industry presented a code of practice that provided appropriate community safeguards. The registration of the code is the last key output resulting from the Review of Commercial Radio Standards.

The new code, below, is short and simple:



The purpose of this Code is to ensure that advertisements are distinguishable from other program content.

3.1 Advertisements broadcast by the licensee must be presented in such a manner that the reasonable listener is able to distinguish them, at the time of the broadcast, from other program material. 

3.2  For the avoidance of doubt, this Code is not intended to catch an unplanned, incidental reference to a product, service or organisation where no consideration for such reference is received.

ACMA Chairman, Chris Chapman, says, “By working closely with the commercial radio industry, the ACMA has achieved an optimal co-regulatory outcome. Registration of the code and the handing back of responsibility to the commercial radio industry demonstrates the ACMA is not interested in regulation for its own sake, but rather in the good policy outcomes that a co-operative approach can deliver.”

In a statement the ACMA said it: is satisfied that the new advertising code maintains the community safeguards previously assured by the Broadcasting Services (Commercial Radio Advertising) Standard 2012. The ACMA is also encouraged by the industry’s high level of compliance with the obligation to ensure advertisements are distinguishable. Since 1 May 2012, the ACMA has identified only one instance of non-compliance, and this was due to a technical failure of software at the relevant station.

Listener complaints about advertising on commercial radio are now to be made directly to the relevant licensee in the first instance. Like all code complaints, citizens can bring complaints to the ACMA if they are not satisfied with the licensee’s response or if the licensee fails to respond to the complaint.

Coming Soon: Peter Saxon’s in depth interview with the ACMA Chairman Chris Chapman.