Free TV Australia, the industry body which represents all of Australia's commercial free-to-air television networks, has told the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) that it is time to remove the ban on M-Rated content before 8:30PM.
Free TV wrote the submission to ACMA on behalf of the Nine Network, the Seven Network, Network Ten, Southern Cross Austereo, Prime Television, WIN, NBN and Imparja.
The submission states:
"Free TV recommends the removal of time zone restrictions for commercial free-to-air television broadcasters, on a staged basis if necessary. The requirement to only show certain content at certain times of the day is outdated and puts commercial free-to-air broadcasters at a disadvantage in terms of their scheduling strategies.
The provision of two advertisement-free, dedicated, government-funded children's channels (ABC2 and ABC3) significantly reduces the need for interventions on the commercial free-to-air channels directed towards protecting children. They provide ad-free spaces for all Australians where children are guaranteed protection from age-inappropriate or harmful content."
The submission has angered many child rights groups who say that lifting a ban on M-Rated content would put children at risk of viewing inappropriate and damaging content like sex and violence.
"The family in Australia has always relied on being able to turn up at home in the evening and switch on the TV and know that there'll be something that's not going to harm or disturb the children. They'll no longer be able to have that confidence," said
Elizabeth Handsley, President of the Australian Council on Children and the Media.
Handsley's colleague and the chief exec of the Council adds, "There's a child protection issue here, not all children grow up in families where parents are vigilantly watching over what they're seeing on TV. People know that before the 8.30pm time zone it's going to be pretty safe,'' she said. "They are going to be exposed to adult concepts they don't understand, and to glamorized violence."
Lesley Ey from the University of New South Wales agrees: "This will be exposing children to adult concepts which they're not developmentally able to manage. Although the classification systems are there, media's renowned for pushing boundaries and once time zones are relaxed, you can imagine what sort of material is going to flood our televisions during the day."
Free TV's chief executive Julie Flynn fought back by citing an Australian Law Reform Commission report which stated that due to technological advancements, MA15+ content is readily availabile in any Australian home with the Internet, pay TV and DVDs.
Flynn told News Corp: "In analog, time zones were seen as an essential tool in protecting children from inappropriate content. Today there are a myriad of options available to parents to regulate and control what their children see, including parental locks, EPGS, on demand content and DVDs as well as two dedicated ad-free children's channels on the ABC.
"The current time zone restrictions do not make sense in a converged media environment where viewers are accessing content from a range of sources on a single screen."
The ACMA accepts that the "time zones mandated for broadcasting codes are under strain as a regulatory tool and as such, believes that it is timely to explore this area of regulation".
What do you think? Is it time to remove the ban on M-Rated content before 8:30PM?