ACMA urges content providers to address audiences expectations

In a new position paper released today, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has called on broadcasters and other professional content providers to address the expectations of today’s audiences – no matter how they read, watch and listen to content.

ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin said that the paper was informed by the ACMA’s regulatory monitoring, compliance and research activities, existing industry safeguards, the findings of previous government reviews, and broader public discourse on community standards.

“This paper provides our views on what Australian audiences expect when they consume media, whether that be on TV, radio, in print or online. We identify important safeguards on issues such as accuracy and impartiality, transparency of commercial interests, privacy, and dealing with highly distressing content,” said Ms O’Loughlin.

“Co-regulation currently sits at the heart of TV and radio content regulation in Australia. It is incumbent on the broadcasting industry to effectively deliver on co-regulation to maintain the confidence of audiences and the broader community.

“We therefore expect broadcasters will take this research into account when reviewing and updating their respective co-regulatory codes of practice,” said Ms O’Loughlin.

The release of the position paper comes at a time when Australians are watching more on-demand content than ever before. In June 2021, 58 per cent of adults used online subscription video services in a given week, compared to 54 per cent who viewed free-to-air television.

Data also shows that more Australians were watching broadcasters’ own catch-up or on-demand services, with 37 per cent of adults reporting they had accessed these services in the previous 7 days, up from 28 per cent in June 2019.

Current broadcasting codes of practice do not apply to online content, even when that content appears on a broadcaster’s live-streamed, catch-up or on-demand platform

“With the rapidly changing content environment, we consider there is an urgent need for broadcasters to apply content rules consistently across their multiple delivery platforms so that all their audiences are afforded similar protections.

“We also intend for this paper to serve as a resource for a broader range of content providers outside of the regulatory framework, including print media and streaming services. These services should be asking themselves whether these audience expectations are being met by their current self-regulatory arrangements, such as terms of use,” said Ms O’Loughlin.

The full What audiences want – Audience expectations for content safeguards paper and accompanying Trends and developments in viewing and listening 2020-21 research report have been published on the ACMA website. Current co-regulatory codes covering TV and radio broadcasting are here.

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