Election advertising inequity: Spotify exempt but Radio ads breach guidelines

Last week 7HO was found to have breached the rules of the Broadcasting Services Act by not properly tagging a political ad with the required ‘particulars’ at the end of the ad.

This week in Queensland, Annastacia Palaszczuk is airing ads on Spotify that do not contain the required ‘particulars’ for political advertising, but she will not have any problems.


Because Spotify is not regulated under the Broadcasting Services Act.

Other audio streaming services are not regulated by the Act, nor is YouTube. Audio and video played on facebook, twitter, snapchat or other social media platforms are also not regulated.

Is there something wrong with this?

CRA’s Joan Warner thinks so. She has told radioinfo:

“This highlights the inequity of the current law that requires commercial radio broadcasters to include long mandatory statements not only for political advertising but other advertising as well and doesn’t require streaming services or internet content providers to do the same. 

“Commercial radio and television broadcasters are also subject to the blackout rule during a political campaign, meaning no ads can appear on radio or TV for a number of days before an election, but ads can appear online right up to voting day.“ 

So what is the issue?

The Broadcasting Services Act requires radio stations to cause the ‘required particulars’ to be broadcast immediately after ‘political matter’ (including election and other political advertising) that is broadcast at the request of another person.

“The objective of this requirement is to promote transparency in political communication for the benefit of the Australian community by identifying who authorised the broadcast. The required particulars must be in the form approved by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (the ACMA). Compliance with this rule is a condition of all television and radio broadcasting licences.”

When publicising the 7HO breach, ACMA Chair, Nerida O’Loughlin said, “audiences have a right to know who is involved in preparing and placing political advertisements.” But it turns out that they only have a right to know if they are listening to the radio, not Spotify.

The required particulars are:

  • the name of the person who authorised the broadcasting of the political matter
  • the town, city or suburb in which the person lives or, if the person is a corporation or association, in which the principal office of the person is situated
  • the name of every speaker who, either in person or by means of a sound recording device, delivers an address or makes a statement that forms part of that matter.

The text of one of the 7HO ads that were in breach said:

Hi, I’m Jen Butler, your new Labor candidate for Lyons. You wouldn’t believe how many people I have spoken to, who want the Bridgewater Bridge fixed. Why isn’t there any pedestrian or cycling access? Tasmanians deserve the same infrastructure as the rest of Australia. It’s not much to ask. Please get in touch with me at jenbutlerlyons.com or find me on Facebook. I get it, and I am here to help. Written, spoken and authorised by Jen Butler, 36 William St, Perth.
While it is made clear at the beginning that she is with the Labor Party and there is an address given, it is a technical breach because the tag at the end did not say a form of words such as “authorised by Jen Butler of the Australian Labor Party, Level 2, 63 Salamanca Place, Hobart.” Instead she made it conversational in style and gave her electorate address instead of the party address.

Actually the copy above is written in a much better and appealing way than the standard required format. But the Act does not care about good copywriting, it cares about particular forms of words to be used. So the Jen Bulter copy was in breach.

Queensland Labor Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, or perhaps her advertising agency, is also pretty good at copywriting. Her ads, airing on high rotation on Spotify to anyone geo-targeted to be listening in Queensland, are also well written in a conversational form. One ad playing this week says:

For the past three years I’ve been restoring the front line services the Newman/Nicholls LNP cut. We’ve created 122,500 jobs and we’re investing in renewables. The largest solar farm in Australian is being built here in Queensland. I’ll always put Queenslanders first, that’s why I’m asking for your vote. Now I’ll let you get back to your music. Spoken and authorised by me, Annastacia Palaszczuk.

The ad does not follow the required form of words. It does not say the name of Party or give the Party address in a tag at the end of the ad.

But is is not in breach because the ad is airing on a streaming service that was not invented when the legislation was written. There is no breach, the ad is perfectly legal on Spotify, but if it were played in that form on any of Queensland’s radio stations the regulator would be obliged to come to a breach finding based on precedent.

A spokesperson for the ACMA confirmed that Spotify need not comply with the ‘required particulars’ wording and also is not required to comply with the election blackout period, telling radioinfo: “The ACMA’s rules do not cover election or political matter appearing on the internet (unless that material is prohibited content, potential prohibited content or unsolicited commercial electronic messaging)” and referring us to this link on the ACMA website which explains the legislation. The regulator can only carry out actions based on legislation or instructions from the Minister.

It is not known if this issue will be tackled in the media legislation reform process currently before parliament.


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