Television broadcasters have the primary responsibility for ensuring 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 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 by the merger of the Australian Broadcasting Authority and the Australian Communications Authority.
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.
Australian drama expenditure
The Broadcasting Services Act 1992 prescribes that subscription television drama channels, and drama channel package providers, are required to invest at least 10 per cent of their total program expenditure on new Australian drama.
Australian programs are defined by creative control and the origin of key creative personnel. For the purposes of compliance, Australian official co-productions and New Zealand programs are recognised equally with Australian programs. New Zealand programs are recognised so as to be consistent with the Protocol on Trade in Services to the Australia New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement of 1988.
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.
Anti-siphoning of sport
The anti-siphoning list is a list of sporting events that the government has determined should be available on free-to-air television for viewing by the general public. It is called the anti-siphoning list because it aims to prevent these events being ‘siphoned off’ by subscription television to the detriment of free-to-air viewers.
Subscription television licensees can acquire the rights to broadcast events on the anti-siphoning list if rights are not acquired by free-to-air broadcasters or if those rights are held by commercial television licensees who have the right to televise the event to more than 50 per cent of the Australian population or if the rights are held by either of the public broadcasters (the ABC or SBS).