The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is responsible for the regulation of broadcasting, radio-communications, telecommunications and online content distributed in Australia (Australian Government 2017). Furthermore the main representatives of Australian broadcasters including FREE TV Australia and Commercial Radio Australia develop codes of practice after consultation with the public, to prescribe content and programming practice safeguards (Robertson 2013, p. 2). These codes must then be registered by the ACMA if they are satisfied that the codes are endorsed by the industry, the public has had sufficient input and the codes ultimately provide appropriate community safeguards (Robertson 2013, p. 2).
In regards to what types of content is regulated, this can cover many topics ranging from tabacco and political matters, to governing the content of children’s programs. Furthermore, another prominent example and one that is relevant to societal circumstances nowadays is the prohibition of direct encouragement or financing of terrorist organisations (ACMA The Fine Print, 2016). Even looking upon the ACMA website, it outlines the specific classifications of children program requirements. For example, some criteria include making the content specifically for children, holding entertainment value, enhancing a child’s understanding and the acceptance of the program being deemed appropriate for this age group (ACMA The Fine Print, 2016).
Ergo, unsuitable material refers to any demeaning towards ethnicity, nationality, race, sexual preference, religion or disability. Furthermore, if distressing content is portrayed to children such as unsafe situations which may encourage similar behaviour or content that is generally inappropriate, this will see such programs breaching the Children’s Television Standard’s regulations. Therefore such regulations aim to ensure that community standards are being met and implemented onto television programs (ACMA The Fine Print, 2016).
If there is controversial content depicted on media platforms, this can prompt a multitude of social anxieties and concerns within a community. However, moral panics can often feed the growth of a “perceived problem” which can unfortunately lead to distorted understandings, public hysteria and result in even more legislation (Bonn, Psychology Today 2015). As Stanley Cohen proposes, a moral panic is defined as a situation in which public fears and state interventions greatly exceed the present threat posed to society (Bonn, Psychology Today 2015). Hence given the boundless potential of media nowadays, a moral panic has the potential to greatly reconstruct the original threat and the perceived severity it has on the broader audience.
In terms of my own experience with ‘regulations’ surrounding particular media usage, it can be interesting to notice the types of concerns that were behind such actions. As a young teenager, I remember being the only individual in my friendship group who did not have a Facebook account – simply because my parents did not permit me to make one. It wasn’t until the age of around sixteen that I finally convinced my parents to let me become a part of that social media scene. When reflecting back on this, I do not see it as being unreasonable – considering my age I don’t see my parents’ restraint being unfair for I was still able to use the Internet for other purposes (obviously just not for social media). Another main reason why I believe they were unlikely to allow us to participate on Facebook would perhaps be their lack of knowledge and experience surrounding it. My parents are not technologically impaired people however I can find it reasonable for parents to be slightly skeptical of such media platforms even more so with young teenagers.
Overall, regulations whether they are made for the public or in your home, aim to provide more safety boundaries for individual usage online. However, more so in relation to the public, such regulations can often be seen as tampering with certain content – therefore ultimately challenging how and what content we engage with. Hence, it is critical to remain aware of such regulations that may be in place and question its suitability for intended audience, and the purpose that may be behind it.
Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), 2016, ‘All about children’s television,’ The Fine Print, viewed September 20th <https://www.acma.gov.au/Citizen/TV-Radio/Television/Kids-and-TV/all-about-childrens-television-kids-tv-advertising-i-acma>
Australian Government, 2017, ‘Australian Communications and Media Authority,’ viewed September 21st <http://www.australia.gov.au/directories/australia/acma>
Bonn S., 2015, ‘Moral Panic: Who Benefits From Public Fear?’, Psychology Today, viewed September 20th <https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wicked-deeds/201507/moral-panic-who-benefits-public-fear>
Robertson I., 2013, ‘Over-regulation is stifling Australia’s media,’ Centre for Independent Studies Limited, Australia, p. 2