ACMA unveils online complaints process for commercial radio industry

The media regulator has unveiled the revised codes of practice for the commercial radio industry which will for the first time require broadcasters to accept complaints electronically.  

It follows the release of  the commercial TV industry’s new code of practice in December which from March 1 will also require TV broadcasters to allow viewers to lodge complaints electronically.

Chris Chapman, Australian Communications and Media Authority chairman, said: “The move to online commercial radio complaints is a major enhancement and responds to community demands for a streamlined complaints process.”

The commercial radio Codes were last reviewed and registered by ACMA in September 2004. This followed a two year period of consultation between industry body Commercial Radio Australia, its members, the general public and ACMA.

Last month, ACMA called on the commercial radio industry to put in place safeguards to protect participants in live entertainment programs or risk facing new regulatory measures.

It followed the release of ACMA’s report into the issue, prompted by 2Day FM’s Kyle & Jackie O breakfast show’s controversial lie detector segment when a 14 year old girl reveal she had been raped live on air.

An ACMA spokesman said the matter is being treated separately to the revised Code and it is “still awaiting CRA’s response”.

Meanwhile, ACMA has released its first research and an associated issues paper as part of the media regulator’s review of the three commercial radio standards introduced after the “cash for comment” inquiry.

Amendments to the commercial radio Codes of Practice:

Code Amendment
Code 1 – Programs unsuitable for broadcast
  • 1.1(e)  – replaces ‘vilify’ with ‘serious contempt  for, or severe ridicule’
  • 1.2 – expands good faith defence to cover all proscribed matters
  • Inserts an interpretation clause – in accordance with case law
  • 1.3 (a) and (b) – replaces ‘contemporary standards of decency having regard to likely characteristics of the audience of the licensee’s service’ with ‘generally accepted standards of decency having regard to the demographic characteristics of the audience of the relevant program’
  • Deletes ‘gratuitous use in a program of language likely to offend the anticipated audience for that program’
Code 2 – News and current affairs programs
  • 2.1 (news) – inserts ‘reasonable’ listeners in public panic and distress provision.
  • 2.2 (current affairs) – replaces ‘factual material presented accurately’ with ‘licensee must use reasonable efforts to ensure that (a) factual material is reasonably supportable as being accurate; and (b) substantial errors of fact are corrected at the earliest opportunity’ – inserts a provision that failure to comply with 2.2(a) will not be a breach if a correction is made within 30 business days of the licensee receiving a complaint or a complaint being referred to the ACMA.
  • 2.3(d) – replaces previous clause with ‘the licensee does not use material relating to a person’s personal or private affairs or which invades an individual’s privacy unless there is a public interest in broadcasting such information’.
Code 5 – Complaints
  • 5.1 – provides for lodgement via online electronic compliant form where the licensee has technological capacity, in addition to signed letter or fax.
Code 7 – Compliance with the codes
  • Includes a defence: (a) ‘material being broadcast which the licensee believed on reasonable grounds did not breach the Codes’.

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