Australian Council on Children and the Media

Sports betting ads

The issue:

Strong and ongoing community concern and outcry about the all-too-frequent exposure of the young to TV ads which promoted gambling on sports outcomes.  ACCM has taken the view that exposure to gambling advertising is contributing to future problem gamblers in Australia by setting up pathways that become the norm for adult behaviour. The research on gambling advertising and on family co-viewing justifies strong government action on betting ads in both terrestrial and online media, up to and including an outright ban.

What’s happened:

In response, on May 5 2017, the Minister for Communications Mitch Fifield announced that the Government would ensure that the TV industry modified its Codes of Practice.

It took until April 2018 for actual change to Commercial TV Codes to be implemented, with the long delay due to a number of factors:

  • the industry had demanded and got a reduction in TV licence fees to compensate for the loss of ad revenue;
  •  it was waiting for a package of media reform legislation to pass Federal Parliament (late October);
  • it then started (Nov 2017) a consultation process with the public about the proposed changes;

FreeTV was then required under s 123(4)(b)(iii) of the Broadcasting Services Act to send the proposed Code revisions to the ACMA for approval and release. 

The latter process included FreeTV satisfying the ACMA that the Code changes include appropriate community safeguards for the matters covered, and the public had had an adequate opportunity to comment on the proposed Code.  

What the community said along the way: 

The public submissions to the FreeTV consultation included strong representations from the Alliance for Gambling Reform, and from the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation. They both argued (as did ACCM in a letter to Minister Fifield in April 2017) that 8.30 pm was too early to allow betting ads especially during weekend sports, with the vulnerable teenage audience highly likely to be watching well after 8.30pm. Further, they argued that a start time of 8.30pm (if accepted) should apply no matter in which state viewers were watching (a provision not previously in the proposed Code).

The state of play for FreeTV  at May 2018:

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has approved and released the revised Commercial TV Code provisions governing gambling ads in live sports broadcasts, and these commenced on March 30, 2018.

In summary, there will be no betting ads in live sports on free-to-air TV between 5am and 8.30pm, and this timing applies in the time zone of the viewer.

The state of play for Pay TV services: streaming/online services

There was a separate review of the Codes of the pay- TV services. The outcome is that generally the applicable time zone will be that of Australian Eastern Standard (or Daylight) Time no matter where the actual sporting event is taking place.  This is because the argument was made and accepted that ads are usually inserted nationally.  There may be a variation if a channel has broadcast differing content in different geographical areas, or delivers addressable advertising.

And this timing applies in the time zone of the viewer.

The state of play streaming/online services

The rules that will apply to online / streaming services have been the subject of separate legislation and a Senate review.  The Senate Committee reported on 12 February  2018 and the Bill has now passed both Houses (28 March).  

The Committee agreed with the overall approach and drafting of the bill. It noted that online services are not currently subject to any gambling promotion restrictions, and that the amendments extend the restrictions that currently apply to the broadcast of gambling promotional content during live sport to the online environment. In doing so, it ensures that there is a level playing field between competing services and platforms, and that the ACMA becomes the single, independent regulator for both broadcasters and online content service providers in relation to gambling promotional content.

The ACMA has announced a consultation period with stakeholders and submissions are due on 10 May 2018