A new Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice
(Code) took effect on 1 December 2015, replacing
the previous code registered in 2009.
The Code was developed by Free TV Australia, the industry group
representing commercial free-to-air broadcasters, in consultation
with the public, and is registered with the Australian
Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).
The Code regulates the following key areas of commercial
classification, classification zones and proscribed
news and current affairs;
disclosure of commercial arrangements;
time limits on non-program matter;
scheduling/placement of commercials and other non-program
Reasons for renewal of the Code
The Code was updated to increase simplicity and to provide a
renewed focus on key safeguards in the provision of television
content, with a particular focus on accuracy, privacy,
vilification/ discrimination and classification.
The ACMA considers that the Code more accurately reflects the
contemporary media environment. In particular, the Chairman of the
ACMA, Chris Chapman, has stated that:
[t]he new code reflects
the reality that television is operating in a new, digital era in
which content can be viewed from a wide variety of sources and on a
wide variety of platforms. The digital era has brought many
challenges for broadcasters, and there were aspects of the previous
code which made it difficult for them to respond and innovate. The
digital era has also brought challenges for viewers, and the new
code is designed to assist them to better manage their own viewing
in an environment in which responsibility will be increasingly
shared between government, industry and, importantly, viewers
(citizens). We have worked with Free TV to ensure the code was well
adapted for this new environment while retaining core viewer
What does this mean for commercial television
The Code will continue to operate alongside the Broadcasting
Services Act 1992 (Cth), other ACMA Standards and regulatory
Commercial television broadcasters and other relevant parties
should ensure that they are aware of and in compliance with the new
and continuing obligations set out in the Code, which can be
briefly summarised as follows:
Classification and proscribed material
Most material broadcast on television must be classified and
scheduled in accordance with specified classification zones.
A key difference between the Code and its predecessor is that
there has been a move to less restrictive time zones, with the
changes permitting PG programming all day and earlier M and MA15+
The aim of these amendments is to provide increased programming
flexibility for television broadcasters, while incorporating a
range of protections to limit the exposure of children to
potentially unsuitable materials, including specific rules for
content after 7.30 pm and advertising placement restrictions, which
are dealt with in section 2 of the Code.
News and current affairs
Broadcasters must present factual matters accurately and must
not misrepresent viewpoints. News must also be fair and impartial,
although current affair programs are not required to be impartial
and may take a particular stance on issues.
Disclosure of commercial arrangements
A factual program that endorses or features products or services
as part of a commercial arrangement must disclose that fact.
Disclosure can be made in-program, in credits, on the program's
website, or in some other way that adequately alerts viewers to the
Advertising time limits and restrictions
The Code makes no changes to advertising time limits, but
continues to limit the amount of commercial and promotional matter
that can be scheduled in any hour, with lower overall limits
applying between 6pm and midnight.
The Code also continues to apply restrictions on advertising of
products and services of particular community concern or
sensitivity, including: alcohol; betting and gambling; adult
services; and X18+/R18+ rated films or video games.
This publication does not deal with every important topic or
change in law and is not intended to be relied upon as a substitute
for legal or other advice that may be relevant to the reader's
specific circumstances. If you have found this publication of
interest and would like to know more or wish to obtain legal advice
relevant to your circumstances please contact one of the named
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