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AUSTRALIAN Content regulation

SUBSCRIPTION TELEVISION BROADCASTERS

Television broadcasters have the primary responsibility to ensure that the material they broadcast reflects community standards. Most program requirements are governed by a code of practice, determined through industry and community consultation, which for subscription television broadcasters is published on the Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association (ASTRA) website.

However, some aspects of programming on free-to-air and subscription television are regulated by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). This Federal Government statutory authority was established on 1 July 2005 when the Australian Broadcasting Authority and the Australian Communications Authority merged.

The areas covered by ACMA’s subscription television regulation address minimum levels of Australian drama production expenditure and the anti-siphoning of sport, which are summarised below, as well as anti-terrorism. For more information, see the ACMA website.

NEW ELIGIBLE DRAMA EXPENDITURE SCHEME

The Broadcasting Services Act 1992 prescribes that a subscription television licensee (subscription television broadcaster) that provides a drama service and channel is required to invest at least 10 per cent of the channel’s total program expenditure on new Australian drama. This requirement is referred to as the New Eligible Drama Expenditure (NEDE) scheme.

The NEDE adopts the definition of ‘Australian program’ as set out in the Broadcasting Services (Australian Content and Children’s Television) Standards 2020, summarised here. Expenditure on ‘new’ content can include spend on script development, acquisitions, investment, pre-production or production.

The scheme accommodates the dynamics of production schedules by allowing broadcasters and channel providers to operate under an ‘accrual-type’ system under which obligations that arise in one reporting period that are not acquitted, must be fully acquitted in the following period.

Subscription television broadcasters report to the ACMA on NEDE spend. The ACMA publishes aggregated compliance data on its website.

ANTI-SIPHONING SCHEME

The anti-siphoning scheme aims to give free-to-air television broadcasters a chance to show major events included on the anti-siphoning list.

Subscription television broadcasters can acquire the rights to broadcast events on the anti-siphoning list in certain circumstances, including if:

  • an event is removed from the anti-siphoning list (e.g. events are automatically removed from the list if no one has bought the rights 26 weeks before the event is scheduled to start)
  • a national broadcaster or commercial broadcaster with a combined audience of more than half of the Australian population has purchased the rights, or
  • seven days have passed since the end of the event.

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