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‘Misinformed’ and ‘misleading’: ACMA clarifies broadcast requirements for same-sex marriage ads

The Australian Communications and Media Authority has clarified broadcasting licences do not prohibit advertising around marriage equality, but has noted some content is regarded as political matter and therefore needs to include the ‘required particulars’.

In an updated notice on its website, the ACMA said commentary around the banning of broadcast advertisements ahead of the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey was “misinformed” and “misleading.”

However, the ACMA said it was a condition of all broadcast licences under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 to broadcast the ‘required particulars’ following any advertisement of political matter, if it is broadcast at the request of another person.

“These particulars identify the person who has authorised the political broadcast and promotes transparency in political communication for the benefit of the Australian community,” the ACMA explained.

“The licence condition in no way prohibits the broadcast of political matter; it merely requires that the person who authorises the broadcast is identified following the broadcast.

“This is a long-standing requirement and should be understood by advertisers seeking to influence public opinion about marriage equality and the outcomes of the postal survey,” it said.

In a separate update, the ACMA explained the requirement to broadcast ‘required particulars’ was to promote transparency in political communication.

The ACMA has a broad definition of ‘political matter’: “‘Political matter’ means any political matter, including election advertising and the policy launch of a political party, but is not confined to material broadcast in the context of an election campaign.”

In the case of The Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey, the ACMA said any advertisement broadcast at the request of another person that would be understood by an audience member as seeking “directly or indirectly to influence their views about same-sex marriage or the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey” is considered political matter, and needs to be tagged with required particulars.

It added ‘required particulars’ for political matter must include the name of the person who authorised the broadcast, the town, city or suburb in which they live, and the name of every speaker who, either in person or by means of a sound-recording device, delivers an address or makes a statement.

“It is critical that advertisers, content producers and licensees consider how a reasonable audience member might understand the material proposed for broadcast,” the ACMA concluded.

The ACMA has listed several investigations which have been undertaken in the past year, to provide advertisers and licensees of examples regarding the broadcast of ‘political matter’ around issues of equality and abortion.

It comes one month after the Advertising Standards Board said it would “most likely” not consider complaints about advertisements related to the same-sex marriage postal survey, as the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ advertisements are seen as ‘political advertising,’ which is not considered by the ASB.

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