ACMA: Fix your EPGs please

The Australian Communications and Media Authority has told Free to Air Networks to lift their game on Electronic Program Guides (EPGs).

ACMA says some networks are meeting minimum criteria for an adequate EPG, but that “several” networks are not.

It declined to name them.

The four key criteria are:
• is free of charge and in a format that can be accessed by all free-to-air digital TV reception equipment
• includes program schedule information for a minimum of seven days
• includes program classification information
• includes accurate information about the present and following programs being aired, including their start times.

“Two years of steady progress have seen all of the five networks reliably meeting three out of the ACMA’s four key criteria for an adequate EPG,” said ACMA Chairman, Chris Chapman.

“Results of our monitoring in July 2010 show that several networks are now also reliably meeting the final criterion of accurate present/following data, which is vital for the effective operation of the parental lock function in digital television receivers,” he said.

“‘Time is starting to run out. The decision to mandate parental lock as a standard feature of all receivers from February next year, means audiences will have all the more reason to expect a fully-functional EPG to support this application.”

ACMA will publish monthly monitoring results on this final criterion and publish monitoring results on all other criteria on a quarterly basis.

But while ACMA neglects to name and shame networks and admits networks have had two years to get their EPGs in order, readers of TV Tonight recently indicated in its Audience Inventory that ‘Keeping an EPG up to date’ was one of their biggest concerns.

An onscreen EPG was also voted the most popular form of Guide while Seven was voted the biggest culprit in late starting times.


  1. Secret Squïrrel

    The ACMA have neither the resources nor the wherewithal to prosecute and punish the networks in a timely manner, for serious matters such as classification breaches, so they’re not going to be handing out fines every time a program doesn’t start on time.

    If you wish to punish the networks responsible, vote with your remote and don’t watch their shows.

  2. Tasmanian de√il

    At the moment 9 is the only network that identifies repeats, as well as the ‘consumer advice’ such as v for violence and l for coarse language etc. I’ve also noticed recently they’ve improved on the start and end times, but I don’t know if that’s a WIN thing or a 9 thing. ABC also sometimes has the accurate start and end times, but they don’t update their EPG when a change is made. Not much can be said for the other networks.

    What I also find annoying with EPGs, and this is more to do with online guides, is when a show is set to start at, for example, 7:29, and the grid puts it under the last half hour, in this case 7:00. That should be fixed, especially now with a lot of awkward start times.

  3. The ACMA should impose a big $$$fine on the networks for every EPG time error in prime time.
    It’s basically deceptive conduct and bad manners to advertise wrong times without a good reason or apology.

  4. I was going to say what Davo said – would like to see repeats identified in EPG too. Printed guides do, but not EPG’s. Is annoying when, from reading synopsis, you’re not sure if it’s a new episode or not, so you choose to record that to be safe, only to find it’s a repeat that you’ve already seen.

    Would also like the synopsis to be more to the point. Sometimes they do a bit of a “war and peace” with it, and I can’t see it all because it gets chopped off at a certain length.

    Lastly, although ABC are good on the whole, News 24 is woeful. They know when they have breaking stories, but fail to update their EPG to reflect changes. The only way to know if they’re still sticking to their EPG is to watch the channel to see if what’s on is what’s advertised to be on. e.g. they’ll say “we have a press conference with Julia Gillard coming up shortly” but still say “Australian Story” is coming up shortly in the EPG. Do they not have the resources to update their EPG when they have breaking news happenning?

  5. As much as i love what Seven has to offer i am sick of the shows continually starting at 7:40, 8:40, 9:40. Why cant the damn guides be up to date. I am in a Prime area so is it Prime? Instead it stays at 7:30, 8:30, 9:30, well my Austar and PVR does.

  6. last night my panasonic PVR said that the RPA started at 9:30pn while my foxtel IQ said 9:48pm would be good if they both were correct in last nights case the IQ was correct as it almost always is

  7. @ Brad – When WTV – cH 44 the community channel started earlier this year they had issues and it took a while before a full epg was provided . It will happen just give them some time.

  8. @Jeremy, Here (Sydney) GEM has had its EPG up for several days now… all shows prior to launch got changed to “HD simulcast” then after that, GEM content. As at last night , 7mate still didn’t have anything up, though.

  9. I felt sorry for people who have PVRs who are missing the end of their favourite shows because the networks changed the end time at the last minute
    But people who watched Millionaire or Deal or No Deal missed the First five minutes because the EPG says the shows start at 5:30pm, not 5:25pm. Odd.
    Last week the X Factor ran 15 minutes overtime, ended at 9:45pm and then Bones started 15 minutes later than said in the EPG, and people who decided to set to record Bones missed the last 15 minutes because the end time is at 10:30pm, as said in the PVR. Networks need to stop pushing shows overtime, or extend just 5 minutes.
    And David, when do we see 7Mate and GEM’s TV guide show up on the EPG?

  10. C31 Melbourne on Digital44 is also dragging behind, not having any information on their EPG. After years of begging the Government for a Digital Licence, they now have it, but fail their audience by not having ANY information on their EPG. Freeview also said that they would carry all communityTV information when they went digital, but to date, the only information they are carrying is TVS31 in Sydney.

  11. @Woody,

    Just in case you don’t know, most set top boxes will only populate the EPG, for any given channel, as long as you have actually viewed any channel on that same transport stream since the last time the box was powered up. It also can take several minutes for the download to complete. Long story short, if you’ve turned the STB on and only watched the one channel, all others will show an empty EPG.

    This isn’t always the case, most PVRs have a way to store EPG information between power-cycles, as do many of the newer TVs and even a few set top boxes.

    Having said all that, recently in SE Qld 7 have had a lot of problems. At least 4 times in the last 3 months their Now/Next has become “stuck” on a show. When this happens the rest of their EPG data does not advance beyond 8 days from the “stuck” point. The most recent times this has happened, the Now/Next has been stuck on Weekend Sunrise well into the following week.

    Depending on how the firmware in your receiver handles this, you can see many different symptoms, but what appears as an empty EPG for channel 7 is definitely one outcome.

  12. @ tomothy – My epg was not in exact timings last night either it had Home and Away starting at (as it said )7 to 7.30pm. When really it went from 7.03 to 7.32 pm. Most days it is in exact timing.

    Nine has started exact timing ,
    Ten also has
    Sbs doesn’t , however they usually start shows at 7.30pm if it says so. They also have shorter ad breaks .
    abc I have noticed is starting to use exact timings as well.

  13. The EPG’s one thing, but wouldn’t it just be better for ACMA to force the networks to run shows on time? How about fining them for every show that runs late?

    The obvious problem is that they are allowed to average the minutes-per-hour of ads right across prime time, so they load more ads in their top rating shows, causing them to run over time. If the limit on advertising was no longer allowed to be averaged but was on a strict hour by hour basis, programmes would probably run on time.

  14. I noticed Seven have been better, for instance on Sunday, I set Rafters to record for Tuesday, and the accurate time of 8.39pm was already there. Then last night they failed with City Homicide still showing at 8.30 when it didnt start until 8.37pm
    TEN seems to update their guide around midday for that evening.
    ABC and SBS rarely start late, so its a non issue for them. It is Nine/GO! which are the worst and rarely update.
    7Two just has the most bizzare start and end times for shows like “Ugly Betty 5.57pm – 6.54pm” WTF?

  15. Maybe it’s just a hightened awareness, but after the TV Tonight poll I have noticed WIN have got their start times down to the minute – such and such will be from 8.41 to 9.36 for example. Maybe people are listening!!

  16. I’m really annoyed that the 3D Trial doesn’t have an EPG.
    My regular PVRs can’t record and playback the H.264 broadcast so I want to use the the Samsung 3D TV’s Extended PVR function to set a timer to record the matches.
    Unfortunately the Samsung Extended PVR timer recording only works with an EPG.

  17. Interesting. I have always said that Ten/One and all the ABC channels are really good at the start and finish times in the EPG. It is also important when recording using your PVR. My PVR uses the EPG to record shows, and even though my machine automatically adds 15 minutes to the finish time, on a couple of networks, I have still missed the end of shows.

  18. We all know 9 is the one dragging it’s feet on this one. 10 updates the times to be accurate on the day of, 7 seems to do it in bursts that go a few days out, but sometimes they fall behind and miss a few days. ABC and SBS know how to read a clock so don’t have an issue to start with.

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