Broadcasting content regulation
The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy advises the Australian Government and contributes to policy on content regulation issues for radio and television services. The information on this page describes the regulatory framework for programming content on television and radio and provides contact information for relevant regulatory and industry organisations.
The regulation of content in films, videos, music videos, computer games and certain publications is the responsibility of the Commonwealth Attorney-General's Department.
For information about how to make a complaint about programming on radio and television, see the broadcasting complaints page of this website.
Broadcasting Services Act 1992
The Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (BSA) promotes diverse, innovative and quality programming, including programs reflecting Australian identity, character and cultural diversity. It also promotes the development of a broadcasting industry that is responsive to audience needs, respects community standards and places a high priority on the protection of children from harmful material.
The Act provides the legislative foundation for the regulation of content on commercial, community, subscription (pay) and class licensed (narrowcast) services.
Australian Communications and Media Authority
The Act establishes a regulatory framework under which the Australian Communication and Media Authority (ACMA), an independent statutory authority, develops program standards and assists broadcasters and other service providers—for example, narrowcasters—to develop codes of practice.
ACMA monitors compliance with standards and codes of practice and can investigate complaints and take action where breaches occur.
The ACMA website makes available the industry codes of practice, the Australian content requirements for broadcasters and the standards for children's programs on the relevant pages for regulating radio broadcasters and regulating television broadcasters.
Commercial broadcasting services
The content of programs on commercial radio and television broadcasts is required to comply with standard licence conditions under the BSA, or mandatory ACMA program standards, or an industry code of practice depending on the particular issue.
Industry codes of practice for commercial radio and television generally cover most matters relating to the content and presentation of programs, including the classification of programs and the amount of advertising allowed. The codes also set out a process for dealing with complaints from viewers and listeners.
ACMA standards apply to the Australian content of programs and advertisements and to children's programs and advertising directed to children on commercial television.
Copies of the commercial radio and television broadcasting codes of practice are available from the ACMA website or from the peak industry bodies, Commercial Radio Australia Ltd and Free TV Australia (see details in contacts column).
Copies of ACMA standards are available from the ACMA website.
Community broadcasting services
The codes of practice for the community broadcasting sector were developed by the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia. They are registered by ACMA and came into effect on 1 January 1996. The codes comply with the three mandatory criteria for registration: they provide appropriate community safeguards, were endorsed by a majority of community radio broadcasters and members of the public were given an adequate opportunity to comment on the codes.
The codes are divided into eight sectionscovering responsibilities of broadcasting to the community, principles of diversity and independence, general programming guidelines and guidelines for news and current affairs, Australian music content, sponsorship, volunteers, conflict resolution, handling complaints and review of codes.
Subscription television broadcasting services (pay TV)
The content of pay TV programming is subject to licence conditions under the BSA or industry codes of practice, depending on the particular issue. The Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association (ASTRA) has developed an industry code of practice for pay TV in consultation with ACMA. Enquiries should be made to ACMA or ASTRA (see details in contact column).
The content of open and subscription television and radio narrowcast services is subject to licence conditions under the BSA and industry codes of practice. Copies of the codes are available from ASTRA.
National broadcasting services
The two national broadcasting services, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS), operate independently of Government under their own Acts and are not subject to ACMA program standards.
However, the ABC and SBS are required to submit codes of practice to ACMA, which it uses to assess complaints against the national broadcasters. The ABC and SBS also have editorial policies and codes of practice which are available from the relevant organisation (see contact details in the column on the right).
Advertising Standards Bureau
97 Northbourne Avenue
Turner ACT 2612
Tel: 02 6262 9822
Fax: 02 6262 9833
Australian Broadcasting Corporation
GPO Box 9994
Your capital city
Australian Communications and Media Authority
PO Box Q500
Queen Victoria Building NSW 1230
Tel: 1800 226 667 (free call) or 02 9334 7700
Fax: 02 9334 7799
Australian Press Council
117 York Street
Sydney NSW 2000
Tel: 1800 02 5712 (free call) or
02 9261 1930
Fax: 02 9267 6826
Community Broadcasting Association of Australia
P.O. Box 564
Alexandria NSW 1435
Tel: 02 9310 2999
Fax: 02 9319 4545
Special Broadcasting Service
Locked Bag 028
Crows Nest NSW 1585
Tel: 02 9430 2828
Fax: 02 9430 3700
- ABC Act, charter and policy documents
- SBS Codes of Practice
- Commercial Radio Codes of Practice and Guidelines
- Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice
- Subscription (pay) television code of practice
- Community broadcasting codes of practice (radio and television)
- Internet industry codes of practice
- Broadcasting Services Act 1992
- Hansard and Report of the Senate Information Technologies Committee
- Complaints about media content
- Australian Communications and Media Authority—radio content regulation
- Australian Communications and Media Authority—television content regulation
- Australian Internet Industry Association