Australian Big Brother cleared of breaching content laws

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Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Australia's media watchdog - the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has cleared Australian Big Brother of breaching content laws following a sexual misconduct scandal, which was broadcast via the Internet. The determination has prompted Australia's communications minister, Helen Coonan to request that the ACMA to review the free-to-air television code of conduct and extend content regulation to content streamed via the Internet.

According to Senator Coonan the ACMA found that because Channel Ten did not broadcast the incident on television that the television broadcast standards were inapplicable.

The ACMA also found that despite the video being streamed on the Internet, Big Brother had not breached online content censorship laws as the media had not been stored on Big Brother's website. The Broadcasting Services Act provides for the regulation of Internet content, however to be considered Internet content, it must physically reside on a server.

Senator Coonan said that live content distributed via the Internet or mobile devices should be subject to the same restrictions as those on television. “This matter has reinforced the need for changes to the Act to ensure that these new services being offered over the Internet and mobile devices are subject to the same content restrictions that apply to television broadcasts," said the minister.

“On June 14 2006 in an address to the National Press Club I announced that legislation would be introduced to ensure that appropriate content safeguards would be imposed on all non-broadcasting commercial content services, including live services."

“This important legislation is presently being drafted and will be introduced into Parliament at the earliest opportunity. I will be urging all of my Parliamentary colleagues to support the extension of these essential safeguards."

The minister said that she had also requested that the ACMA review the television code of practice. "Given the community outrage about this matter, it would appear the codes applying to television program classifications may also be out of step with community standards," said Senator Coonan.

“I will direct ACMA to conduct a detailed review of whether the free to air television code of practice is operating to provide appropriate community safeguards in relation to reality TV programming."

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This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.