The Australian Communications and Media Authority has found that Caboolture Community FM Radio Association Inc, the licensee of community radio station 4OUR Caboolture, breached 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.

Under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (the 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.

ACMA found that the licensee failed to include tags in relation to one pre-recorded announcement for financial sponsors, four studio interviews and on thirteen occasions during an outside broadcast.

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

The investigation noted various improvements made to 4OUR Caboolture’s policies and procedures since the initial unacceptably high incidence of breaches.

Included within this suite of improvements are the following:

* all existing presenters will attend special training to ensure awareness of the station’s licence conditions regarding sponsorship and advertising;
* the station now displays posters and memos in its studios to remind presenters and volunteers of the licence conditions; and
* it has also implemented new policies regarding its outside broadcasts. For example, a volunteer acting as ‘producer’ will be made available to monitor outside broadcast programming to ensure any interviews broadcast are conducted appropriately.

ACMA was satisfied with 4OUR Caboolture’s substantive initiatives and considered that the station had taken reasonable but very necessary steps seeking to ensure it does not breach the two licence conditions again.

ACMA’s investigation followed a complaint received last November that 4OUR Caboolture had broadcast advertisements and sponsorship announcements in excess of five minutes per hour.

A copy of investigation report 2116 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 BSA). Investigations under Part 11 of the BSA are generally conducted in response to complaints received by ACMA relating to a possible breach by:

* a licensed broadcaster: of the BSA, the regulations, a licence condition, a class licence or a code of practice; or
* the ABC or SBS: of a code of practice.

Role of ACMA

ACMA receives complaints directly from people about possible breaches of the BSA, the regulations, licence conditions and class licences. ACMA’s role in dealing with complaints under industry codes is prescribed by the BSA. Under section 148 of the BSA, a code complaint must be made first to a licensee and can only be made to ACMA if the complainant is not satisfied with the licensee’s response. In addition to investigations triggered by complaints, ACMA can instigate its own investigation and the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy can direct ACMA to conduct an investigation.

ACMA’s performance of its role is informed by Section 5 of the BSA, which requires ACMA to, among other things:

* produce regulatory arrangements that are stable and predictable;
* deal effectively with breaches of the legislation; and
* use its powers in a manner that is commensurate with the seriousness of the breach concerned.

This requires ACMA to use its enforcement powers appropriately and to identify the most effective and proportionate way of dealing with breaches. This is further reinforced in the Explanatory Memorandum to the BSA.

It [section 5] promotes the ABA’s [now ACMA’s] role as an oversighting body . . . rather than as an interventionist agency hampered by rigid, detailed statutory procedures and legalism . . . It is intended that the ABA [now ACMA] monitor the broadcasting industry’s performance against clear, established rules, intervene only where it has real cause for concern, and has effective redressive powers to act to correct breaches.

This statement reflects Parliament’s intention in enacting the co-regulatory framework and ACMA’s prescribed role within that framework.