ACMA: The Australian Communications and Media Authority has found that the licensee of community radio station 4DDB Toowoomba breached the conditions of its licence that prohibit the broadcasting of advertisements and the broadcasting of sponsorship announcements that run in excess of five minutes per hour. ACMA has also found that the licensee has operated the service as part of a profit-making enterprise.

Under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (BSA), sponsorship announcements on community radio which do not include appropriate acknowledgements of financial support (‘tags’) are considered to be advertisements and so fall within the prohibition. The Authority found that the licensee failed to include tags in relation to numerous pre-recorded announcements for financial sponsors and two live cross-over chats.

Where they are appropriately tagged, the BSA allocates a time limit of five minutes per hour for the broadcast of sponsorship announcements. The Authority found that on three occasions the licensee broadcast sponsorship announcements that ran in excess of this time limit.

This is 4DDB’s second breach of these licence conditions this year.

Community broadcasters must not operate their services for profit or as part of a profit-making enterprise. While ACMA is satisfied that 4DDB is not operating for profit, it has found that the terms of 4DDB’s commercial agreement with a third party are such that its service has been contributing to the generation of income for this organisation. In practice, this means that the service was an integral part of a profit-making enterprise operated by the third party. As such, 4DDB’s service has been operated ‘as part of’ a profit-making enterprise in breach of the licence condition.

In light of these serious breaches of its licence conditions, ACMA will now move to pursue compliance measures addressing the potential for future breaches of the relevant licence conditions. ACMA will be writing to the licensee of 4DDB, Darling Downs Broadcasting Society Inc, shortly about the proposed compliance actions, details of which will be announced when finalised.

ACMA’s investigation followed complaints that 4DDB was broadcasting advertisements and sponsorship announcements in excess of the five minute per hour limit and that the service was operating for profit. The complainants 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 the community interest licence condition.

Darling Downs Broadcasting Society Inc holds a community broadcasting licence to provide a radio service in the Toowoomba RA1 licence area, which includes the local government areas of Toowoomba, Cambooya, Crows Nest, Gatton, Jondaryan, Pittsworth and Rosalie in Queensland.

A copy of investigation report 1993 is 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 a 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.