Australian Council on Children and the Media

Free TV Australia’s family-unfriendly Code starts 1 Dec 2015

The issue

Free TV (the association of commercial TV stations of Australia) reviewed its Code of Practice in 2015.  This revised Code has been registered by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) and commences on Dec 1 2015.

Read the new code

The ACMA has satisfied itself that the new Code contains adequate community safeguards.
Read what the ACMA says about this

Read more about the background to this issue


What happens next

Free TV Australia is to conduct a public education campaign about the changes over the next 12 months. The ACMA says:

Free TV will be conducting a 12-month education campaign to inform viewers of changes to the code and methods of managing viewing by them and their children (accompanied by information on the Free TV website). Viewers will also be able to take advantage of the wide availability of the now-familiar parental lock facility on the overwhelming majority of digital televisions and set-top devices

What you need to watch out for:

  • All G time zones have been replaced by PG time zones
  • The M time zone has been expanded  and now starts at 7.30pm 
  • The MA15+ time zone has been moved forward to 8.30pm (from 9m)
  • The AV time zone has been combined with the MA15+ zone and can screen from 8.30pm (formerly 9.30pm)
  • Alcohol ads can be shown at any time in live sporting events and “sports programs” screened on weekends (6pm Fri to midnight Sun) and on public holidays. They can also be shown after 8.30pm in any program on any day.
  • Betting ads can be shown in news, current affairs and sports programs.  They can also be shown in any PG classified program, and in any program shown after 7pm (but not before 8.30pm if the program is principally directed to children).
  • Program promotions and trailers for higher classified programs and movies than what you’ve chosen, continue. 


What is supposed to help?

Note that many of these protections only apply in programs “principally directed to children”. 

  • No alcohol advertisements in the evening before 8.30 pm (unless as an accompaniment to a sports program on a weekend or public holiday)
  •  A ban on gambling advertisements in any program classified G, C or P between 6.00 am and 8.30 am and between 4.00 pm and 7.00 pm (as well as during any program broadcast between 5.00 am and 8.30 pm which is principally directed to children)
  • Prominent and legible consumer advice at the start of all films classified PG or above, all programs classified M which commence between 7.30 pm and 8.30 pm and any program classified MA15+
  • Clear display of classification symbols at the start of and after breaks in programs, as well as in program promotions
  • A requirement that all advertising and program promotions broadcast between 7.30 and 8.30 pm during a sports program or programs classified G or PG be classified no higher than PG 
  • A ban between 5.00 am and 8.30 pm on the promotion of a program classified M or MA15+ during any G classified program, which is principally directed to children (except for ‘up next’ pointers to the following program)

What you can do

  • Choose your programs for family viewing with extra care
  • Watch out for unsuitable program promos or movie trailers
  • Be vigilant with live sporting coverage 
  • Let us know and complain to the networks  if you think the community safeguards are not working for you and your family.  Also contact your local federal politician


Background

1. The ACMA’s Contemporary community safeguards inquiry was conducted in June 2013.  This asked whether broadcasting regulation was keeping up with societal changes.

 Free TV Australia in their issues paper said:

  • time zones are no longer a relevant or practical way of limiting children’s access to unsuitable content.
  • greater access to content via digital channels  and time shifting contributed to this lack of relevance  
  • they agreed with the ACMA that time zones are “under strain” as a regulatory tool.

 ACCM in their paper said:

  • there is a valid connection between protection of children and time zone interventions.
  • parents have long relied on TV programs shown at certain times of the day being safe for children.
  • many families still view television programs together in the early evening, and
  • assume programs will be suitable for families with children at this time of night.
  • time zones have an educative value about what’s age-appropriate viewing

2. Community surveys in 2013 showed continuing support for time zones  

ACMA Survey 2013 (see pages 44, 47, 48) showed 75 % strongly agreed and a further 15% agreed that time zones were useful

3. The ACMA’s 2014 report on its Contemporary Community Safeguards Inquiry

ACMA discussed how protection of children might best be achieved (p71-) noting: 

  • shared responsibility by broadcasters and parent, but some lack of clarity about the relative ‘shares’ of responsibility.
  • a combination of the classification of audiovisual material,  meaningful and consistent consumer advice tools that enable parents and carers of children to make informed decisions about content.
  • some of the tools and mechanisms currently provided by television broadcasters are under strain.
  • nonetheless, parents rely on these tools, including time zone restrictions.
  • evidence about content consumption behaviours demonstrates that families continue to enjoy watching live television content, with an increasing amount of catch-up television.
  • there is conspicuous community support for maintenance of some time zone restrictions on free-to-air television but
  • well - reasoned arguments about their diminishing value.
  • any contemplated reduction of time zone restrictions might best be staged, taking into account children’s viewing habits, the availability and acceptance of other viewing management tools and the provision of educational programs for parents and carers.

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