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Tuesday, 17 February 1987
Page: 38

(Question No. 1337)

Senator Mason asked the Minister representing the Minister for Communications, upon notice, on 21 August 1986:

(1) To what extent are television programs viewed in full to determine whether they comply with the regulations. (See answer to Question without Notice asked on 5 June, Hansard, 19 August 1986, p. 97).

(2) What control, if any, does the Government have over satellite material or material that is classified by the television networks as urgent to determine whether such programs comply with these regulations.

(3) Has any program over the last 2 years been refused air play or been modified to comply with the regulations; if so, what were the names of these programs, when were they screened, and on what stations.

Senator Walsh —The following answer to the honourable senator's question, based on information provided by the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal, has been supplied by the Minister for Communications:

(1) Programs intended purely for transmission on commercial television must comply with the Interim Television Program Standards introduced by the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal (ABT) on 1 February 1986. Responsibility for classification of those programs, and for ensuring that television material complies with other aspects of those Standards, rests with the licensee.

The ABT has, however, a power to pre-classify children's programming for use on commercial television.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the Special Broadcasting Service are not subject to the ABT Program Standards but maintain similar standards in relation to the presentation of material concerning drugs.

Under the Interim Standards, material is classified as unsuitable for broadcasting if, among other things:

Techniques for the consumption of illegal drugs are demonstrated (care must also be exercised in depicting the use of legal drugs)

The misuse of intoxicating liquor, drugs or narcotics is presented as desirable.

Certain classifications of programs cannot be shown during particular times of the day.

(2) Australian satellites broadcasters are subject to the same rules as terrestrial broadcasters. Foreign satellite broadcasts using foreign satellites are not subject to Australian control even if their signal is receivable in Australia. However diplomatic measures may be taken if problems arise.

Non broadcast services, for example program distribution, are regarded as private communications and are not subject to controls over content, assuming they comply with the criminal law.

However, material distributed by satellite, if broadcast in Australia, must comply with the restrictions referred to in (1).

(3) It is probable that broadcasters have refused to play, or play in an unmodified form, certain programs. Decisions taken by licensees in accordance with their obligations under the Broadcasting Act 1942, however, are not normally notified to the ABT. The ABT is concerned only with breaches of its standards. If a licensee breaches ABT standards, the matter may be examined

during a licence renewal inquiry; or

if circumstances warrant, at a specially convened inquiry.

The ABT has powers to give legally enforceable directions to licensees to ensure compliance with its standards.