The lack of rules governing the syndication of content over the Internet has resulted in the Australian communications regulator finding that Channel Ten did not breach broadcast rules involving a controversial incident on its reality show Big Brother.
Communications Minister Helen Coonan says there are no rules governing live webcasts over the internet.
Senator Coonan says she’s ordered a major review of the television code with the view to extending it to the internet. The inquiry was sparked by an incident that led to the removal of housemates Michael “Ashley” Cox and Michael “John” Bric from the Big Brother compound on the Gold Coast.
Footage of the incident showing Cox and Bric in bed with Camilla Halliwell was streamed over the internet to some subscribers. The footage appears to show Bric holding Halliwell down while Cox rubs his crotch in her face. Cox’s mother claims he did nothing wrong and she wants to sue channel Ten for dumping her son. In a press release, Senator Coonan said The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) would be directed to do a review of the free to air television code of practice.
She said legislation would be introduced into Parliament to extend content regulation to video streamed on the internet.
“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 Senator Coonan.
She added: “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.”
She said the ACMA review would include community consultation.
“Following that consultation, ACMA has the power to impose a mandatory standard on the free to air television industry, if the relevant code of practice does not provide adequate community safeguards.
“When considering online content ACMA applies the National Classification system, agreed by the Commonwealth, states and territories.
“I think we need to consider whether the current approach to the classification of reality programming is appropriate.
“I will be raising this matter with the Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock, as he is responsible for classification matters. I urge State and Territory censorship ministers to support the Australian Government to ensure that reality programming is appropriately regulated.”