So the ACMA does have a sense of humour

Hello Australia, this is your Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull speaking. Now you have a choice. It’s like Alien vs Predator. It’s Tits Shorten or it’s me, Big Mal. Choose me.

Election announcement or comedy sweeper?

That was the question the ACMA had to consider when it received a complaint about this message, broadcast on election day by Triple M.

Does the ACMA have a sense of humour? Can it tell the difference between comedy and election material?

The message potentially breached several rules, such as not being tagged with the party or speaker’s name and breaching the three day election blackout rule.

While driving to an election venue about 7:00 am on the day of the Federal election, the complainant heard two different “election based advertisements:”

“The first one made disparaging comments about the Labor leader Bill Shorten by someone who identified himself as Malcolm Turnbull who went on to say “Vote for me”. The second instance some minutes later was quite brief. “This is Malcolm Turnbull. Vote for me” … surely this breaches the blackout regulations,” said the complainant.


In response Triple M said the segments were not advertisements, they were short station sweepers:

“Sweepers are pre-recorded samples aired between songs. They are commonly used in radio broadcasting. The Sweepers featured the voice of comedian Lawrence Mooney impersonating Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, and were 8 and 10 seconds in length respectively. It is our contention that the Sweepers did not breach clause 3A(2) of Schedule 2 of the BSA because the Sweepers were not advertisements or sponsored segments to which the clause applies. The Sweepers did not contain election matter, and we did not receive any consideration for their broadcast.”

The other sweepers said:

Hello Australia, you’ve got a choice this Saturday, Tits Shorten or me, Big Mal, Malcolm Turnbull. Vote for me.


Hello Australia, this is your Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull speaking, and my final election promise is if we’re re-elected every man, woman and child will get a free bottle of Sangiovese. Good on you.


Rather than just laugh off the complaint, the ACMA gave it serious consideration, assessing whether the announcements breached the blackout period, whether they were advertisements and whether they were election matter.

The ACMA considers that some listeners, including the complainant, may not have realised that the recordings were not genuine political advertisements. Mr Mooney’s impersonation closely resembles Mr Turnbull’s speaking voice. Further, although the recordings were mostly broadcast between songs, several times they were played immediately following advertising blocks, which would have suggested to some listeners that they were bona fide political advertisements.


In the ACMA’s view, the content falls within the definition of ‘election matter’ because, although intended to be comic, the recordings were, on the face of it, a direct appeal to voters to vote for Mr Turnbull, who was a candidate at the election and the leader of a political party contesting the election.

The content is not excluded from the definition of ‘election matter’ by the fact that it was not Mr Turnbull or the Liberal Party who made the appeal, or that the content did not genuinely advocate support for Mr Turnbull because it was intended to be comedic.

The content therefore satisfies the first limb of the definition of ‘election advertisement’…

The second limb that must be satisfied in order for content to be a ‘political advertisement’ is that the broadcaster must have received, or is to receive, money or other consideration for its broadcast…

The ACMA accepts this submission and finds that the second limb of the definition of ‘election advertisement’ is not satisfied. The ACMA therefore finds that no ‘election advertisement’ was broadcast within the meaning of the BSA.

The sweepers were determined not to be  “election advertisements,” so Triple M was off the hook.

The ACMA decided that the licensee did not breach subclause 4(2) of Schedule 2 to the BSA, and consequently complied with paragraph 8(1)(i) which requires compliance with clause 4.

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