Nine breached rules by airing gambling ads during children’s film says ACMA

Nine has become the first TV network to have breached new rules on broadcasting gambling ads during children’s programming.

Nine claimed the main audience for the film was not children

An investigation by The Australian Communications and Media Authority found six commercials for CrownBet were shown on 9Go! during the kids film The Spiderwick Chronicles.

The Nickelodeon-made film was rated PG – the classification of a program principally directed at children – and aired during the school holidays. But Nine claimed the film wasn’t principally aimed at kids.

The film aired last September and the ads all focused on the AFL grand final.

However, Nine attempted to argue that the film – based on a book recommended for children aged seven to 11 – was not aimed principally at children.

According to the ACMA investigation:

“The film was produced by Nickelodeon Movies, an arm of the Nickelodeon children’s television channel, which makes feature length films for cinema release.

“The film’s storyline is driven by a child protagonist (aged approximately 12) and his siblings who protect a book from a shape-shifting ogre, while encountering a range of mythical and fantastical creatures including fairies, brownies, ogres, trolls and goblins. It explores the theme of family conflict from a child’s point of view and portrays the story through the emotions and experiences of the children.

“The licensee submitted that a film being based on a children’s book and being told from the perspective of a child are not reliable indications of whether the film is principally directed to children.”

The TV industry code of practice states that a commercial relating to betting or gambling must not be broadcast during any program broadcast between 5am and 8.30pm that is principally directed to children. The ads – all focusing on AFL – were shown between 7.30 and 8.30pm.

ACMA said Nine had argued “the ordinary reasonable person would appreciate that film adaptations are a different product to the underlying book. The licensee submitted that, instead, the most relevant enquiry is to be based on the content of the film itself.”

However, ACMA rejected the argument, saying a reasonable viewer would understand the film was mainly for children under 15.

Acting ACMA chairman Richard Bean said in a statement: “The restriction on gambling adverting was expanded in the 2015 code to address community concern about children’s exposure to betting and gambling advertising.

“In this case, the commercials encouraged viewers to use an online betting platform to stake money on the outcome of the 2016 AFL Grand Final and the player who would score the first goal in that match. Since the code came into effect in December 2015, these types of commercials cannot be broadcast in programs principally directed to children, regardless of their classification.”

Nine has told the watchdog that it “has taken a number of steps to minimise the likelihood of a breach occurring in the future”.

In light of those steps, and taking into account that this is the first breach of this new obligation, the ACMA considers that the compliance issues raised by the investigation have been sufficiently addressed.

A Nine spokesman said: “It is disappointing to be breached as we believe we interpreted the code appropriately. Today’s finding has provided clarity to ensure we protect our partners’ brands when placing their advertisements. We have now refined our placement protocols to reflect the decision.”


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