Stop ambushing parents with unsuitable trailers

The Issue

For years, parents have been ambushed by trailers for TV programs and movies that don't align with the nature of programs chosen for family and child viewing.

These trailers may be scary or disturbing (for more on this see below).

They may be "sanitised" to meet time zone classification requirements, and mislead about the promoted program’s suitability for children.

They may just carry a CTC (yet to be classified) classification.

CMA has consistently advocated on this issue for more than 30 years, but with little change. As far back as 1987, we initiated an enquiry into trailers with the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal and gained a successful outcome, only to have it struck down by an industry appeal to the Federal Court.

It’s time the industry changed its behaviour to protect children and support parents’ choices.

What's happened recently

During the review of the Free TV Code of Practice in 2015, CMA argued strongly that G or PG programs chosen for family viewing should not contain promos and trailers for higher classified programs and movies.  CMA also lodged numerous complaints on trailers it considered unsuitable for G or PG time zones.

However, the revised Code , now in operation, contains very few effective protections against this longstanding and concerning practice, will make the “ambush by trailer” issues much worse, and include:

  • The removal of all G time zones,
  • The M time zone has moved forward to 7.30pm, and MA15+ time to 8.30pm.
  • Programs of any classification can be promoted at most times of the day (but not within C and P programs) so long as the content of the trailer matches the time zone. There’s a small concession for promos within G and PG programs shown in the new M 7.30- 8.30pm zone. 

What needs to happen

In cinemas, the rules are that trailers for higher classified movies are not shown in G or PG movies.  We should keep pushing for that principle to apply for TV.

What you can do

Send us examples (with date, time, program, channel and name of the program trailer shown) if you see trailers that bother you. And complain to the station you are watching.


NOTE: more about scary trailers

Scary stuff:

  • Scares younger children more than older ones. Older children are more likely to be able to reassure themselves that scary bits will pass and they'll be ok. Children under the age of 10 years are most vulnerable.
  • Is scary whether it's fact or fiction. Younger children will be more scared by scary fantasy material, and older ones by realistic news footage that looks like their neighbourhoods
  • Is scary even if the image appears for only a few seconds.
  • Can trigger enduring harms. There can be impacts on children's emotional health, which range over unnecessary fears and anxieties, sleep disturbances, phobias, and stress disorders. Joanne Cantor, who's a long time researcher in the field (and author of "Mommy I'm Scared: how TV and Movies can frighten children and what we can do to help them") lists what scares children and at what ages and stages. (CMA Parent Guides). Many adults report enduring fears and phobias from something they saw on film at an early age.
  • Is not signalled well by our classifications systems: In Australia, the US and the UK, the classification systems only consider elements such as violence, themes, sex, nudity, language and drugs. While much violent material can be scary to children, not all scary depictions are violent. The Dutch do much better than we do with this.