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Codes of Practice and Complaints Process


All commercial radio stations operate under the authority of licences issued by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).  Ownership and use of those licences is subject to a number of different legislative instruments as well as the general law.

This page provides an overview of the industry-specific legislation which regulates programs broadcast by commercial radio stations.  The overriding purpose of this legislation is to ensure that all programs broadcast on commercial radio stations are in accordance with prevailing community standards.

The tiered approach to regulation

A tiered approach is used to regulate commercial radio programs.  Some of this regulation is in the form of licence conditions found in the principal legislation known as the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (BSA).

Under a co-regulatory scheme established by the BSA, the commercial radio industry has also developed the Commercial Radio Codes of Practice (Codes).  The Codes deal with other subject matter not dealt with by the licence conditions.  The Codes are registered by ACMA and are therefore binding on all commercial radio licensees. See the links to the Codes at the bottom of this page.

ACMA also has residual power, under the BSA, to determine program standards if it is satisfied that the Codes are not operating to provide “appropriate community safeguards” in relation to specific subject matter dealt with in the Codes.  Once issued, program standards operate as licence conditions binding on all commercial radio licensees.


The BSA defines a commercial radio broadcasting service as one that:

* provides programs that appear to be intended to appeal to the general public;
* provides programs that can be received by commonly available equipment and are made available free to the general public;
* is usually funded by advertising revenue; and
* is operated for profit or as part of a profit-making enterprise.

All commercial radio broadcasting licences must be operated in accordance with the licence conditions set out in Schedule 2 of the BSA.  A breach of these licence conditions can result in the licensee being ordered pay to fines or the suspension or cancellation of the broadcasting services licence.

The Codes

The Codes were last reviewed and registered by ACMA in June 2010.  This followed a 3 year period of consultation between Commercial Radio Australia and it’s members, the general public and ACMA. An additional Code has nw been registered - Code 9: Live Hosted Entertainment Programs

The Codes deal with, amongst other things, taste and decency, accuracy and fairness in news and current affairs, advertising, Australian music, broadcasts of emergency information and a formal complaints handling process.

For more information on the complaints process under the Codes, please see below.

The Standards

On 21 November 2000, following the Commercial Radio Enquiry, the Australian Broadcasting Authority determined three program standards - see links below.  The program standards are:

* the Broadcasting Services (Commercial Radio Advertising) Standard 2000;
* the Broadcasting Services (Commercial Radio Current Affairs Disclosure) Standard 2000; and
* the Broadcasting Services (Commercial Radio Compliance Program) Standard 2000.

Complaints process under the Codes

Code 5 of the Codes contains a complaints handling process. A listener who reasonably believes that a commercial radio program has breached the Codes is able to complain to the relevant station.

The complaint cannot be anonymous, must be in writing and must provide enough information to enable the station to investigate the complaint and provide a response.

The reference to ‘in writing’ means a letter or fax. You can also download and use the generic listener complaints template below - see link below.

A station which receives a proper written complaint has a mandatory obligation to respond to that complainant within a set period of timeIf the complainant is not satisfied with the station’s response, he or she can refer the complaint to ACMA. Please do not send any complaints to Commercial Radio Australia as they have no role to play in the complaints process.

Commercial Radio Codes of Practice & Guidelines - Sept 2011 - PDF   
Developed by the industry and registered by ACMA in accordance with section 123 of the Broadcasting Services Act

Broadcasting Services (Commercial Radio Advertising) Standard 2000 - PDF  
Requires radio advertisements to be clearly distinguishable from all other programs

Broadcasting Services (Commercial Radio Compliance Program) Standard 2000 - PDF  
Requires each licensee to develop and implement a compliance training program dealing with the BSA, Standards and the Codes   

Broadcasting Services (Commercial Radio Current Affairs Disclosure) Standard 2000 - PDF  
Requires certain disclosures about the sponsorship of current affairs programs and announcers by third parties

Listener Complaint Form - PDF  
Can be used by listeners to make a complaint to a station that a program broadcast by the station breached the Codes

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