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Australian Media Regulation

Everyone seems to be worried about the media, concerned about violent movies and video games and worried about the effect that television will have on children. Today, I’m going to talk about how and why we regulate the media.

In Australia, there are a number of reasons why we regulate the media.

First, we’re concerned about copycat behavior. We have codes that govern the advertising of food and beverages to children and guidelines relating to the portrayal of suicide. In each of these cases, we’re concerned that people will copy what they see in the media.

Another reason we regulate is to protect children from harmful images and also protect adults from material that’s likely to offend.

In Australia , we also have minimum requirements for the amount of Australian content on television and radio in an attempt to protect our cultural identity.

And we have laws governing media ownership because, as a nation, we believe that media diversity is pretty important.

These are pretty compelling reasons for regulating the media, let’s take a look at the different bodies and organizations that control what we see and hear.

In Australia, we have a Classification Board and a Classification Review Board who classify all of the films, publications and video games that are available for sale and hire in Australia. The classification act is pretty good – trying to protect children while uphold standards of morality and freedom of speech. Our classification categories range from G, for General Audiences, through R18+. If a film, computer game or publication is deemed inappropriate by the Classification Board, it’s refused classification and prohibited from sale in Australia. Over the years, a number of classification controversies have erupted over films and computer games that have been banned. In 2003, movie critic and anti-censorship campaigner Margaret Pomeranz clashed with police as she attempted to screen the controversial film Ken Park which, despite being available in many other countries, was refused classification.

The Australian Communication and Media Authority is a government body responsible for regulating broadcasting and online content in Australia. The ACMA has developed codes of practice for television and radio in conjunction with the industry FreeTV Australia and Commercial Radio Australia. Among other things, they lay down a rating system and dictate what can be broadcast during at particular times.

The ACMA also regulates the ownership of commercial media organisations in Australia. Under current media ownership laws, there needs to be no fewer than five independent media groups in metropolitan markets, to stop one company buying up all of our media organisations.

Australia allows foreign investment but the media is considered a ‘sensitive sector’ and foreign purchases must be approved by the Federal Treasurer.

The Advertising Standards Board is another way we regulate the media. Unlike the Classification Board and the ACMA – which are run by the federal government – the Advertising Standards Board is an example of industry self-regulation. It’s is a free service that handles consumer complaints about advertising. So if you think an advertisement is too violent or sexist, for example, you can complain to the Advertising Standards Board.

These are just a few of the ways that we regulate the media in Australia and, despite the occasional controversy, I think we’ve struck a good balance between morality and freedom of speech.