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))
> 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)
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)
> 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.