M rated TV now allowed from 7:30pm in Classification overhaul

Sweeping TV viewing changes approved as networks are allowed to air M from 7:30 and MA from 8:30pm.


TV classification times are set for their biggest overhaul in years with M rated content to be allowed from 7:30pm and MA from 8:30pm.

Media watchdog the Australian Communications and Media Authority has approved key changes proposed by Free TV earlier this year.

The changes, to take effect from December 1st, include:

  • M rated programs allowed from 7:30pm (previously 8:30pm)
  • MA15+ rated programs from 8:30pm (previously 9pm).
  • No alcohol ads in the evening before 8.30 pm (unless with a sports program on a weekend or public holiday)
  • PG shows now allowed all day
  • Gambling ads banned in G, C or P shows between 6.00 – 8.30 am & 4.00 – 7.00 pm (and 5am and 8.30 pm where a show is principally directed to children)
  • A ban between 5am and 8.30pm on M or MA15+ promos during G classified programs.
  • All ads and promos between 7.30 and 8.30 pm during a sports program or G or PG shows be no higher than PG.
  • Weekend viewing begins 6pm Fridays.
  • Changes to News and Current Affairs, complaints and corrections.

The changes to M timezones could mean increases in broadcasts of violence, sex and nudity, language, drugs, suicide, adult themes, as early as 7:30pm and increasing in intensity from 8:30pm as MA.

ACMA maintains time zone restrictions on free-to-air television are becoming less relevant and that the changes move towards shared responsibility with parental locks on most TV sets with a simpler Code.

“The code now reflects the contemporary media environment, is expressed in a user-friendly and simpler form and, importantly, contains a package of community safeguards appropriate in this new environment,” said ACMA Chairman, Chris Chapman.

“Since the previous code was registered in late 2009, there have been tremendous shifts in the media landscape. Many of the provisions in the earlier code had been around for twenty years or so—from an analogue era where viewers could only source content from three commercial free-to-air channels and two national broadcasting channels.

“The 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 safeguards,” he said.

The new regulations follow a 6 week consultation period held by Free TV, changes to the media environment, the outcomes of the ACMA’s Contemporary community safeguards inquiry (the CCSi) and the Australian Law Reform Commission’s Classification Review.


Key community safeguards provided in the code

Key community safeguards reflected in the new code include the following:

  • All broadcast material (except news, current affairs and sports programs) must be classified and broadcast in accordance with time zones.
  • Broadcasters must exercise care in selecting news, current affairs and sports programs (which do not require classification) for broadcast having regard to the likely audience and any identifiable public interest reason for presenting the program.
  • The classification of a particular program must be displayed at the start of the program and after each program break.
  • Prominent and legible consumer advice (that is, information about the key elements that contributed to the classification of particular content), is required at the start of programs classified M which commence between 7.30 pm and 8.30 pm and any program classified MA15+.
  • A ban on the broadcast of material which is likely to provoke intense dislike, serious contempt or severe ridicule against a person or group of persons because of age, colour, gender, national or ethnic origin, disability, race, religion or sexual preference.
  • Rules about the broadcast of material which may distress viewers in news and current affairs (for example, reports on suicide and images of seriously wounded or dead bodies).
  • Requirements, in news and current affairs, to present factual material accurately, to not misrepresent viewpoints and to correct significant errors of fact.
  • Requirements for fair and impartial news programs which clearly distinguish the reporting of factual material from commentary or analysis.
  • Privacy requirements, including that material relating to a person’s personal or private affairs or which invades a person’s privacy, must not be broadcast unless there is a public interest reason for the material to be broadcast or the person has provided consent for the material to be broadcast. Special care must be exercised in relation to children.
  • Advertising restrictions for certain products and services, including alcohol, gambling, R18+ films and games, contraceptives and sex services.
  • If factual programs endorse or feature third party products in accordance with a commercial arrangement, this must be disclosed to viewers. Further, in programs principally directed to children, this disclosure must occur in a discrete segment with sponsorship clearly disclosed.
  • Clear code complaint procedures.

Summary of the time zones and targeted safeguards in the new code:
Change: G & PG broadcast content permitted any time every day
(previously G programs were permitted all day, but PG programs were not permitted in dedicated G zones on primary channels (which were 6.00–8.30 am and 4.00–7.00 pm Monday–Friday and 6.00–10.00 am on weekends))
Targeted safeguards:
> Children watching G programs which are principally directed to them between 5.00 am and 8.30 pm will not see program promotions for M or MA15+ programs, except that an ‘up next’ pointer for the program immediately following may be broadcast.
> Children watching programs principally directed to them between 5.00 am and 8.30 pm will not see gambling advertising.
Change: M broadcast content permitted every day 7.30 pm to 6.00 am and Noon–3.00pm on school days
(previously 8.30 pm to 5.00 am every day and Noon–3.00 pm on school days)
Targeted safeguards:
To address the bringing forward of the M zone in the evening:
> Families watching sports programs, G programs and PG programs between 7.30 pm and 8.30 pm will not see M classified program promotions or advertisements.
> Families watching sports programs, and children’s films that begin before 8.30 pm and continue after 8.30 pm, will not see M classified program promotions or advertisements until after 9.30 pm.
> Viewers will be alerted to M programs broadcast between 7.30 pm and 8.30 pm by the presence of consumer advice for all M programs broadcast at this time.
> Viewers will not see alcohol advertising between 7.30 pm and 8.30 pm (unless the program is a sports program on a weekend or public holiday).
> Viewers will not see advertising for R18+ films/games until after 8.30 pm.
To address the extension of the M zone in the early morning:
> Viewers watching sports programs, G programs and PG programs between 5.00 am and 6.00 am will not see M classified program promotions or advertisements.
> Viewers will not see alcohol advertising 5.00 am and 6.00 am (unless the program is a sports program on a weekend or public holiday).
> Viewers will not see advertising for R18+ films/games after 5.00 am.
Change: MA15+ broadcast content permitted 8.30 pm to 5.00 am every day, with no AV classification or zone (previously MA15+ zone was between 9.00 pm and 5.00 am every day and AV zone was between 9.30 pm and 5.00 am every day)
Targeted safeguards:
> Families watching sports programs, and children’s films that begin before 8.30 pm and continue after 8.30 pm, will not see MA15+ classified program promotions or advertisements until after 9.30 pm.

51 Responses

  1. I can’t help but think that this is also a reaction to Australia becoming increasingly conservative with our classifications than other countries. I’m sure what constituted a PG 15-20 years ago would easily be considered an M today. But rather than re-assess what ‘Parental Guidance’ means, it seems easier for the networks to bring forward the watershed to align our programme standards to the rest of the world.

  2. David, I like the survey for this week, however I felt a little dubious about posting “Yes” as I agree with the timeslot changes but vehemently disagree with all other aspects of the changes, which are far more insidious (and don’t want my vote to be seen as a default vote for these as well). Will you have a similar survey regarding these other changes?.

  3. I think everyone here is kidding themselves if they think networks will play more drama at 7.30. This move is likely to give them more flexibility to beef up the conficts and manufactured drama in reality shows. That’s just my opinion.

  4. In general i don’t mind these changes. The argument made for these changes makes more sense than the two out of three reach rule being scrapped or major Tv networks being able to buy a regional broadcaster or Pay tv buying into FTA. will comment further on the changes when i have read all of it.

  5. How good would it be to out Greys or similar US dramas on at 7.30 on 7Two? The numbers are dire at 10.30pm but predict on a multichannel ratings would lift slightly. The only thing is, 7Two is dominated by UK dramas/lifestyle shows that seem to have a good following and sometimes top multichannels.

    All I see is channel 7 & 9 at 7.30 ramping up the dialogue in MKR, The Block etc. no more beeping the swear words instead of showing dramas. It will be interesting to see how this pans out over the coming months. The US broadcast many dramas from 7pm so there could be a night (like Thursdays that rate poorly on 7) where we see a shift in programming.

    We’ll wait and see.

    1. Just because the gates have opened, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the networks will suddenly take the Gordon Ramsay route with their reality shows. For the most part, the reality shows that are currently being broadcast at 7.30pm are aimed at a family audience, and suddenly having these shows filled to the brim with foul language will only serve to drive that audience away. Just because it is permitted it doesn’t necessarily make it the best course of action to take. Just to illustrate a recent example, the majority of last year’s Big Brother was broadcast with a PG rating in an 8.30pm timeslot. They could have included almost completely uncensored language, nudity and pillow talk, but they didn’t in order to maintain a “family friendly” façade. Hell, even with a PG rating, they are technically permitted to include non-sexualised nudity (such as bare-breasted female housemates…

          1. Perhaps they’re maintaining the G rating so that it can keep its timeslot in the U.K. (and in other overseas markets). Neighbours is still running today due to the revenue it generates from international viewership. I doubt that the producers would pay much credence to what their Australian viewers want, because if it were up to us, Neighbours would have gotten the axe years ago.

    2. I would like to see greys in a better timeslot but I doubt these changes would have an effect. 7 only wants to bury these shows at late timeslots on the main rather than put them on a multi.

    1. Was thinking the same thing. I don’t watch B & B much but when I tune in, it’s often embarrassing for 10 when half a scene is edited during a slap or punch between two characters.

    2. This does not necessarily mean that Bold can air completely uncensored as quite a lot of episodes and/or story lines would warrant an M classification. I seem to recall a number of years ago that there was a storyline in which a character was raped (years later, I saw the scene on YouTube, and while it was handled with some restraint, the act was depicted to some degree on-screen), and any references to this story arc were excised due to the G classification, which resulted in some episodes being butchered to such a degree that entire chunks of prior (or subsequent) episode were used and re-used in order to fill in the gaps left by the omission of this storyline so that Ten didn’t linger too closely behind the American broadcast.

      With these new regulations in place, however, Bold should be airing with a PG classification from now on (or whenever Ten run out of censored episodes to…

  6. now they won’t have to edit content out if they want for example a movie to play in an earlier slot. MA rated movies like Collateral and Tropic Thunder were played at 8:30 and made M. same goes for M movies made PG like Guilt Trip.

    I hope they play M dramas at 7:30 and get rid of the constant repeats of Modern Family in favour of newer shows. thus leaving later slots open to fit even more shows in those slots.

    but what I’m curious about is if there’s a movie or show with F words in it, will they still play them at 7:30? they are allowed to but something tells me they are too scared to do it at first. maybe the uncut version of Christmas Vacation can be played at 7:30 this year with a M rating.

    all in all this is great news! I thought it was real cool that SBS could air really violent and bloody movies at 8:30!

    1. Again, as I commented (directly!) below, films will not be given the same liberties as TV shows. See section 2.3 of the new Act.

      Sadly your dream of an uncut Christmas Vacation at 7:30 or Tropic Thunder at 8:30 will not happen without a modification of the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995.

  7. As if the ACMA vs ACB inconsistency wasn’t already enough of a problem, the relaxed restrictions for M and MA content only apply to TV shows, not films, which still have the 8.30/9pm restriction.

    7Mate will still be butchering M rated movies down to a PG for early evening viewing…

  8. The Block, MKR, Masterchef, The Voice, The X Factor, TBL, The Bachelor/ette etc. are never going to be replaced by great M rated scripted content before. Younger viewers won’t look away from their phones and tablets long enough to concentrate on complex TV anymore.

    At least 7:30-8:30pm won’t be full of The Bundy Bear targeting underage drinkers, that was the worst of the proposed changes.

    FTA is not like other digital media that is privately transmitted and must be sought out. TVs are left on in lounge rooms, kitchens and playrooms and whatever is on them will be seen by kids. Sure they can access adult content on other media these, but that doesn’t mean it should be nomalised, just for increased profits.

  9. I’m happy with this news. Now some of the American scripted dramas can be bought forward instead of Reality every night. The only thing the FTA needs to do is start a show on time and not move the show around from day to day each week

    1. I don’t think it will make a differenct to the main channels as they are only interested in reality and 7.30pm. Maybe it might help 10 for the times they don’t have reality but then again ten have delayed shows they didn’t need to. As for muti’s the networks aren’t interested in putting shows in a better timeslot they’d rather bury them on the main channel.

  10. “Requirements, in news and current affairs, to present factual material accurately, to not misrepresent viewpoints and to correct significant errors of fact.” – time to axe ACA!

  11. While the classification changes are the biggest news, there are a whole bunch of other changes which have been introduced which are not good news for viewers. In particular, the scope of what is considered to be “exempt non-program matter” (doesn’t count toward ads) has been substantially increased.

    I won’t list all the additions but they include:
    promos of 10 sec or less
    product placement
    program excerpts
    paid Community Service Announcements

    Networks will not need to include a correction notice within the program which contained the inaccurate material nor even on TV at all. They only need to put it on their website. The size of the font is not specified…

    1. From memory, announcements of less than 10 seconds, product placement, program excerpts/promos, and unpaid CSAs have never counted towards ad time. Paid CSAs have, I think, been considered exempt for a few years now (except, I believe, on Community TV) as long as they fit some fairly wide criteria (charities, public health, Government public service announcements, and public education).

    2. Agreed. Couldn’t give a tinker’s cuss about the time slots, but the fact they no longer have to correct themselves on air in the same manner they make a mistake is just plain wrong and shows how little regard they have for people.

      Let’s face it, they wanted the times changed because “it is the parent’s responsibility” (which is true), however they have worked in clauses that abrogate them of **their** responsibilities. The cowards.

      In addition, what happened to the proposal they could could play loose and fast with facts that was in the submission? I note that David mentions something about this in the safeguards, but I am unsure if this means that particular proposal was shown the door or not.

      1. My reading of the new Code is that news programs (only) must present material facts and material misrepresentations of viewpoints accurately and without misrepresentation. They must be fair and impartial and clearly separate the reporting of facts from commentary.

        It’s pretty much open slather for current affairs programs altho’ I’m sure that they won’t hesitate to have a dig at ABC’s 7.30 if they perceive any bias there.

  12. I’m sure there will be some people out there unhappy with the change but it is definitely a good result for the TV industry who are dealing with a changing environment. I personally think it’s very relevant given as soon as The Project is finished (or sometimes even half way through) I’ll start watching recorded shows which are M rated or above. But I’m not so sure it will go changing the commercial networks programming very drastically. They have their staples which have worked well for them in the 7:30pm timeslot (e.g. MasterChef, The Block, My Kitchen Rules, etc.) so I can’t see them dropping them for more mature content which in their 8:30pm+ timeslots haven’t been going as well in comparison.

    1. Well, you’re really only talking about the main channels there. These changes will allow the networks to program alternative content aimed at a more mature audience from 7:30pm on their multichannels.

      1. Oh gosh you’re right – I didn’t even consider the implications for the sister channels. This definitely extinguishes the need for Big Bang repeats on 7mate and GO!. Perhaps we might finally see some overhaul of ONE which has been on the cards since before the Commonwealth Games (I recall an interview on this website with Beverely McGarvey saying that they were looking at options for ONE post games, but nothing ever came about).

          1. Thank you David for the correction – I can’t believe my memory was right the first time 😛 But nevertheless given it was Beverly who said it hopefully there is a higher probability of it actually happening given she is still Chief Programmer, meanwhile McLennan has since left.

        1. I listened to the mediaweek podcast yesterday and they had a nine programmer on talking about 9 life and 9 in general. He mentioned that they are in the process of purchasing content such as two and a half men and the middle to replace big bang which they lost.

  13. It’s pretty sad that the FTA networks would appear to not have enough < M rated content to put on before 8.30pm. Surely we can develop more programs that don't base their content on "mature themes".

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