ACMA releases guidelines for new enforcement powers

On 7 February 2007, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) released guidelines relating to its new enforcement powers introduced by the Communications Legislation Amendment (Enforcement Powers) Act 2006. The guidelines note that ACMA intends to use the minimum intervention necessary for the most appropriate enforcement action, depending on the scale, risk and urgency of the breach. Under the guidelines, the principles that ACMA will employ in making enforcement decisions include:

  • promoting industry compliance with statutory obligations
  • being proactive as well as reactive in its compliance activities
  • keeping decisions free from conflicts of interest and gender, racial, religious or political bias
  • keeping enforcement action proportionate to the impact of the breach and the risk of future breach
  • considering each breach individually, and
  • addressing systemic elements to avoid future breaches.

The guidelines will be reviewed annually and are accessible on the Federal Register of Legislative Instruments website together with an explanatory statement.

ACMA Proposes Draft Guidelines For Narrowcasting Television Services

On 15 February 2007, the ACMA released draft guidelines on the types of services that may be provided as narrowcasting television services under sections 17 and 18 of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992. The paper sets out how ACMA will decide whether a broadcasting service falls into a narrowcasting category. Narrowcasting television services are services where reception is limited to a more targeted audience than for commercial broadcasting services. Narrowcasting television services usually satisfy one of the following criteria:

  • targeted to special interest groups
  • provided during a limited period
  • covering a special event
  • providing programs of limited appeal, and
  • intended for limited locations (eg arenas, business premises).

Subscription narrowcasting services require the payment of a subscription fee, whereas open narrowcasting services do not.

It is recommended that prospective narrowcasters should seek a binding opinion from ACMA under section 21 of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992, as to whether their service falls into a narrowcasting category. ACMA’s binding opinion will remain valid for at least five years.

ACMA is seeking comments on the draft guidelines, which are available at the ACMA website. Submissions close on 9 March 2007.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

Duncan Giles
Naomi Messenger
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