Media Release: Friday, May 2, 2008

The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) is calling for the toothless tiger of selfregulation for broadcasters to be abolished and replaced with government regulation based on more explicit codes of practice, as well as meaningful penalties for broadcasters who breach those codes.

In a submission made today to the Senate inquiry into the effectiveness of broadcasting codes of practice, ACL also recommends the creation of a single, independent complaints body covering all areas of media, and the close monitoring of upcoming programs which are expected to test the boundaries.

ACL Managing Director Jim Wallace said the current classification system is too easily open to interpretation, with broadcasters repeatedly pushing the boundaries in their quest for ratings.

“The current self-regulatory system is akin to Dracula monitoring the blood bank. It solely serves the vested interests of the broadcasters, not those of families and the wider community,” Mr Wallace said.

“Broadcasters are getting away with airing programs containing gratuitous sex, violence, and strong swearing at inappropriate times when children are likely to be watching or listening. They can do this in the knowledge that they are unlikely to face any real penalties for doing so and, if people complain, the program or series will be long over before any action is taken.”

Mr Wallace said that the Government has a legitimate role to play in supporting the efforts of parents by taking an active role in the regulation of broadcasting content.

“It should look to impose swift penalties on broadcasters who breach agreed codes of practice, hitting them where it hurts through such measures as fines, taking programs off air, or insisting that programs be moved to a more appropriate timeslot. Such deterrents are sorely needed as at present, there is really no disincentive against breaking the code.”

Mr Wallace said that examples of television programs which have been pushing the boundaries include Big Brother, Californication, Underbelly, and Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. Some commercial radio stations are also broadcasting sexually explicit and demeaning material at inappropriate times in an obvious bid to increase their market share. For example, one Perth station is running a competition to grow bigger breasts by eating cookies, with the program broadcast between 6 am and 9 am on weekdays, no doubt listened to by families on the school run.

The seven main recommendations included in ACL’s submission are:

  • �Abolishing self-regulation by broadcasters and replacing this with government regulation; � Government regulators to closely monitor upcoming programs which are expected to test the boundaries;

  • �The establishment of more explicit codes of practice, which remove vague terminology, thus limiting the ‘wriggle-room’ which broadcasters use to justify screening inappropriate content on, for instance, “artistic grounds”;

  • �Closer attention to be paid to commercial radio programs, which seem to include sexual content when children may be listening;

  • � The creation of a single, independent, complaints body covering all areas of media and staffed by experts in complaints management. This complaints body should have the authority to ensure that complaints are dealt with swiftly, in time to effect changes during the season of a program if it is found to have breached the code;

  • �Serious, meaningful penalties, which genuinely act as a deterrent, to be imposed on broadcasters who violate agreed codes of practice;

  • �For the inquiry into broadcasting to take into account the evidence presented to the concurrent inquiry into the sexualisation of children as these two issues are linked.

Media Contact: Glynis Quinlan