The Australian Communications and Media Authority has found that the licensee of 8TOP, Charles Darwin University, breached conditions of its licence by failing to encourage members of the community it serves to participate in the operations of the service and in the selection and provision of programs. ACMA also found that the licensee breached conditions of its licence by broadcasting advertisements.

Charles Darwin University holds a community broadcasting licence to provide a community radio broadcasting service for Darwin.

ACMA’s investigation found that 8TOP did not have adequate measures in place to encourage participation in the operations of its service. At the time of the investigation, 8TOP had a number of active volunteers and some committees for community input into decision-making. However, information about how members of the community could become involved was very difficult to find and invitations were worded in a way that was likely to discourage involvement. In addition, 8TOP’s published policies indicated that the community did not have significant input into the selection of programs for the service, except in a very limited way through feedback about the selection of music on 8TOP’s website.

ACMA’s view is that compliance with this licence condition is a key characteristic of community broadcasting services and non-compliance with these conditions is a serious matter.

8TOP has agreed to a range of measures to promote compliance and will report to ACMA on its progress. In light of these circumstances, ACMA will take any further non-compliance particularly seriously and would consider formal enforcement action.

Community radio stations are prohibited from broadcasting advertisements but may broadcast up to five minutes of sponsorship announcements in any hour. Under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992, sponsorship announcements on community radio must include an appropriate acknowledgement of financial support (a ‘tag’), otherwise they can be considered to be advertisements.

ACMA found that 8TOP broadcast advertisements in August and September 2007. The advertisements included promotional material presented during the program Territory Talk and announcements for the Workplace Information Line.

8TOP has discontinued the Talking Travel segment of its Territory Talk show and advises that it has policies in place to ensure it properly tags sponsorship announcements. ACMA is satisfied that its non-compliance arose from a misunderstanding about its obligations and is confident that 8TOP will seek to comply with this licence condition in the future. ACMA will monitor compliance over the next twelve months.

ACMA received three complaints about 8TOP which it investigated at the same time as assessing 8TOP’s application for renewal of its licence. Two of the complaints also alleged that the service was failing to represent its community interest in line with its licence conditions. However, ACMA’s investigation found that the licensee was meeting the requirements of this licence condition. 8TOP’s licence was renewed by ACMA for a period of five years commencing on 2 August 2008.

Investigation Report No. 1847/1879 and 1905 detail measures 8TOP will take to promote compliance and are available on the ACMA website.

Media contact: Donald Robertson, ACMA Media Manager, on (02) 9334 7980.


ACMA conducts various types of investigations under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (the Act). Investigations under Part 11 of the Act are conducted in response to complaints received by ACMA relating to a possible breach by:

a licensed broadcaster of the Act, the regulations, a licence condition, a class licence or a code of practice; or
the ABC or SBS of a code of practice.
If a person wishes to complain about something of concern they have seen or heard on a program broadcast by a radio or TV station, and the matter is covered by a code of practice, the person must, by law, first make a written complaint to the station.

However, if a complaint relates to a matter covered by a licence condition, the person can complain directly to ACMA and need not complain to the station first.

There is a different code of practice for each broadcasting sector, and each code of practice contains a section that explains the complaints process that applies to that sector.

As some codes impose time limits for complaints, it is advisable that people who wish to make a complaint write to the radio or TV station as soon as possible. For instance, the code of practice that applies to commercial television broadcasters enables them to decide to not respond in writing to complaints that are made more than 30 days after the date of broadcast.

When making a complaint to ACMA, people must provide a copy of their complaint to the station, a copy of the station’s reply if this has been received, and any other relevant correspondence with the station. ACMA takes all complaints seriously (except for those that are frivolous or vexatious or not made in good faith) and acknowledges all complaints in writing.

For valid complaints, ACMA considers the information provided and offers the relevant station an opportunity to provide its perspectives. When all relevant information is available, ACMA assesses the complaint against the relevant licence condition or code of practice.

When an investigation is completed, ACMA is required to notify a complainant of the results of an investigation under Part 11 of the Act. The form this notification is to take is not specified in the Act – it might be in the form of a letter or, alternatively, it could be in the form of a more formal investigation report, which is provided to both the complainant and the licensee concerned.

Generally, personal or private information provided in a complaint, including name and address details, are not disclosed to the licensee concerned if it is a licence condition matter. However, as code complaints are first made to a licensee, code complaints are usually made available to the licensee concerned. ACMA’s usual practice is to not provide personal or private information in an investigation report.

Under the Act, ACMA has discretion whether or not to publish the report of an investigation conducted under Part 11 of the Act. ACMA’s usual practice is to publish such reports. However, ACMA is not required to publish an investigation report if publication would disclose matter of a confidential character or likely to prejudice the fair trial of a person. If ACMA intends to publish an investigation report that may adversely affect the interests of a person, ACMA must give the person an opportunity to make representations in relation to the matter.