Thursday, 30 June 2022 08:47

Online journalism practice should consider the audience and abide to an updated code of practice, ACMA urges


Broadcasters and other professional content providers should address the expectations of today’s audiences and update their codes of practice and develop new rules—no matter how they consume content, declares a new position paper published by the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

The paper was based on ACMA’s regulatory monitoring, compliance and research activities, existing industry safeguards, findings of previous government reviews, and broader public discourse on community standards, ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin said.

“We identify important safeguards on issues such as accuracy and impartiality, transparency of commercial interests, privacy, and dealing with highly distressing content,” she said.

“Co-regulation currently sits at the heart of TV and radio content regulation in Australia. It is incumbent on the broadcasting industry to effectively deliver on co-regulation to maintain the confidence of audiences and the broader community,” she stated.

“We therefore expect broadcasters will take this research into account when reviewing and updating their respective co-regulatory codes of practice,” said O’Loughlin.

According to ACMA, the position paper comes timely when Australians are watching more on-demand content.

In June 2021, 58% of adults used online subscription video services in a given week, compared to 54% who viewed free-to-air television.

More Australians were watching broadcasters’ own catch-up or on-demand services with 37% of adults reporting they had accessed these services in the previous seven days, up from 28%in June 2019, data showed.

The ACMA pointed out current broadcasting codes do not apply to online content, particularly on a live stream or a catch-up on a streaming platform.

“With the rapidly changing content environment, we consider there is an urgent need for broadcasters to apply content rules consistently across their multiple delivery platforms so that all their audiences are afforded similar protections.”

The ACMA also intends that the paper will serve as a resource for a broader range of content providers outside of the regulatory framework including print and streaming services.

“These services should be asking themselves whether these audience expectations are being met by their current self-regulatory arrangements, such as terms of use.”

The full What audiences want – Audience expectations for content safeguards paper and accompanying Trends and developments in viewing and listening 2020-21 research reports have been published on the ACMA website.

This first appeared in the subscription newsletter CommsWire on 29 June 2022.

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