Australian commercial free-to-air broadcasters are unhappy with the costs of complying with the Code of Practice and claim the classification zones prevent them from satisfying viewers’ appetite for more PG and M-rated content.
And they complain that it’s difficult to source sufficient G-rated programming for broadcast during the day.
Those are among the findings of a report released by the Australian Communications and Media Authority following its contemporary community safeguards inquiry.
The ACMA initiated the inquiry as part of a review of broadcasting regulation and the TV and radio codes of practice while the media industries are pressing for deregulation.
The TV and radio networks said their costs of handling complaints had increased over the past five years as the number of complaints and investigations by the ACMA have grown.
If there were no codes of practice, broadcasters insisted they would retain some form of complaints handling process but it would be 40%-80% cheaper than the present system. That’s because they would not have to respond to code-related investigations by the ACMA and they would have more discretion in how they responded to complaints.
The stations even complained they lose advertising revenue due to the requirement to publicise the TV code and its complaints procedures through 360 on-air spots each year.
The report identified the cost of acquiring content as the single largest expenditure item for commercial TV broadcasters, accounting for about one third of their total costs. Programming costs had increased over the past decade largely driven by the rising cost of producing and acquiring Australian content.
Although revenue growth for the broadcasters was positive in 2009-10 and 2010-11, the overall trend since 2005-06 has been negative, reflecting the structural shift in the market for advertising (driven by the emergence of the internet) and macroeconomic shocks such as the global financial crisis and the European sovereign debt crisis.
But the report notes the profitability of the broadcasters has been steady over the past decade (with the exception of 2007-08 and 2008-09), reflecting their efforts to control their non-programming costs.
The report predicts the broadcasters will have to contend with the growing shift of advertising revenue to the internet (although they can exploit this shift through their catch-up services) in the next five years.
Time-shifting and ad-skipping will increase the attractiveness of program material that people are more likely to watch live (such as sport) and product placement, it said.