All commercial radio stations operate under the authority of licences issued by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). Ownership and use of those licences is subject to a number of different legislative instruments as well as the general law.
This page provides an overview of the industry-specific legislation which regulates programs broadcast by commercial radio stations. The overriding purpose of this legislation is to ensure that all programs broadcast on commercial radio stations are in accordance with prevailing community standards.
The tiered approach to regulation
A tiered approach is used to regulate commercial radio programs. Some of this regulation is in the form of licence conditions found in the principal legislation known as the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (BSA).
Under a co-regulatory scheme established by the BSA, the commercial radio industry has also developed the Commercial Radio Codes of Practice (Codes). The Codes deal with other subject matter not dealt with by the licence conditions. The Codes are registered by ACMA and are therefore binding on all commercial radio licensees. See the links to the Codes at the bottom of this page.
ACMA also has residual power, under the BSA, to determine program standards if it is satisfied that the Codes are not operating to provide “appropriate community safeguards” in relation to specific subject matter dealt with in the Codes. Once issued, program standards operate as licence conditions binding on all commercial radio licensees.
The BSA defines a commercial radio broadcasting service as one that:
* provides programs that appear to be intended to appeal to the general public;
* provides programs that can be received by commonly available equipment and are made available free to the general public;
* is usually funded by advertising revenue; and
* is operated for profit or as part of a profit-making enterprise.
All commercial radio broadcasting licences must be operated in accordance with the licence conditions set out in Schedule 2 of the BSA. A breach of these licence conditions can result in the licensee being ordered pay to fines or the suspension or cancellation of the broadcasting services licence.
The Codes were last reviewed and registered by ACMA in June 2010. This followed a 3 year period of consultation between Commercial Radio Australia and its members, the general public and ACMA. An additional Code has now been registered - Code 9: Live Hosted Entertainment Programs.
The Codes deal with, amongst other things, taste and decency, accuracy and fairness in news and current affairs, advertising, Australian music, broadcasts of emergency information and complaints handling.
For more information on the complaints process under the Codes, please see below.
On 21 March 2012 the ACMA reviewed the industry program standards and revoked the Compliance Standard. On 16 March 2013 the ACMA further reviewed the Standards and revoked the Advertising Standard. The only current program standard (applicable from 1 May 2012) is:
* the Broadcasting Services (Commercial Radio Current Affairs Disclosure) Standard 2012.
Complaints process under the Codes
Code 5 of the Codes contains a complaints handling process. A listener who reasonably believes that a commercial radio program has breached the Codes is able to complain to the relevant station.
The complaint cannot be anonymous, must be in writing and must provide enough information to enable the station to investigate the complaint and provide a response.
The reference to ‘in writing’ means a letter or fax. Also acceptable is the use of web complaints form downloaded from the station’s website. Stations in major metropolitan markets also offer the option of an electronic complaints form into which all required information can be entered. Information on station websites can be obtained from the “Find a Station” icon on the top right hand corner of this page or you can contact us on (02) 9281 6577. Alternatively, you can download and use the generic listener complaints form below - see link below.
A station which receives a proper written Codes complaint has a mandatory obligation to respond to that complainant within a set period of time. If the complainant is not satisfied with the station’s response, he or she can refer the complaint to ACMA. Please do not send any complaints to Commercial Radio Australia as we have no role to play in the complaints process.
Complaints relating to advertising
Complaints about advertisements on radio can be made to the Advertising Standards Bureau.