Australia's commercial free-to-air television broadcasters are represented by the peak industry body, Free TV Australia. Commercial television is regulated by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). Under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (the Act), ACMA:
- plans the broadcasting spectrum
- manages broadcasting licensees and collects licence fees
- monitors compliance with ownership and control rules
- helps develop industry codes of practice
- develops and administers program standards
- manages local content rules for regional broadcasters
- investigates the broadcasting industry.
The Act also limits audience reach, cross-media holdings and how many licences can be issued.
The content of commercial television programs must comply with conditions in the station's licence, ACMA program standards, and industry codes of practice. These cover what can be broadcast, the classification of programs, how much advertising there is, and how to deal with complaints.
Complaints about television programs will be assessed in terms of how they breach those codes and standards.
Foreign ownership rules
Australia's media industry is a sensitive sector under the Government's Foreign Investment Policy. This means that any foreign investor who seeks more than five per cent equity in an Australian media company must apply for prior approval from the Treasurer, who may grant that approval subject to certain conditions.
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Pay TV services are available to subscribers on payment of subscription fees. These services are funded by subscriptions primarily and limited advertising revenue.
The content of pay TV programming must meet licence conditions under the Act or industry codes of practice, depending on the particular issue. The industry code of practice for pay TV in Australia was developed by the peak industry body, Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association (ASTRA) in consultation with the ACMA. The Code applies to broadcast and narrowcast services.
Other subscription services can include those made available through Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) services that are provided with some internet services including channel packages provided by Foxtel and content packages offered by providers such as Fetch TV, and Subscription Video-on-Demand (SVOD) services offered directly over the internet, such as Stan and Presto.