The Broadcasting Service Act is an act of Australian parliament which was enacted in 1993. Its basic function is to regulate the issues related to content and media ownership in Australia.
The Broadcasting Services Act is a really vast legislation for which you can get complete details in this official document. However, in this article, the privacy laws related to internet content and online regulation would be discussed.
The illegitimate and offensive content is regulated through the Online Content Scheme under Schedule 5 and 7 of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992.
Schedule 5 of the Broadcasting Services Act encompasses the provisions which are related to the internet content hosted outside Australia. However, the Schedule 7 of this Act regulates the content that includes some content available on the internet and mobile services which are hosted in or provide from Australia.
Broadly, the law applies to the internet content that can be hosted or provided by the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and content service providers.
The Australian Broadcasting Authority
The Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA) is the main organization that has the responsibility of regulating internet content in Australia.
According to ABA itself, they have established a co-regulatory scheme which was established by the Broadcasting Services Act 1992. With the phrase co-regulation, the ABA refers to the policy which emphasizes that the industry should assist the ABA in the regulatory matters.
ABA also has the authority to refer material to the Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) as they are provided with the complaint mechanism for the internet regulation.
The ABA has following functions according to the schedule 5 of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992;
- Inspection of the complaints regarding the internet content.
- Promoting the establishment of codes of practice for the internet industry, registering and monitoring compliance with such codes.
- Giving advice and inform the community about internet safety issues, especially the ones which are linked to children internet usage.
- Undertaking research into internet usage issues and notifying itself and the Minister of relevant trends.
- Communicating with relevant overseas
The regulation scheme just applies to the content that could be stored and excludes the real-time activities or communications through the internet.
The games which could be downloaded or sampled, they form internet material that falls under the ABA regulation. Also the audios such as music samples and where lyrics are posted on the internet so that they are stored on the internet thus falls under the ABA regulation.
However, ABA does not regulate the emails and content related to real-time activities or discussions which are not stored or archived internet material.
The Broadcasting Service Amendment (Online Services) Act 1999
The provisions of Schedule 5 and Schedule 7 were added in 1999 and 2007 into the existing Broadcasting Services Act 1992. These regulations allow the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to effectively ban some content from being displayed within Australia.
Under this amendment, if there is a complaint about content ‘broadcasted’ on the internet then the ACMA is allowed to monitor the content under the guidelines for film and video. Also, it states that the online service providers are responsible for the content of all the hosted services.
The ACMA could demand a host or service provider to stop or restrict content to specific content depending on the classification it receives.
The content which is possibly prohibited or is classified prohibited under Schedule 7 is;
- RC (Refused Classification)
- R18+ except that it is subject to a restricted access system.
- MA15+ and is provisioned for a commercial purpose meaning that the user has paid for the content unless it is subject to a restricted access system.
If these restrictions are witnessed, ACMA is authorized to issue notices to local sites which encompass the deadline to remove the disputed content otherwise the site could fall victim to pay fines up to $11,000 per day.
However, if the site is hosted outside Australia then the disputed site will be added to the list of banned URLs. The list of banned websites or pages is then added to the encrypted software which must be provided to all the customers by their ISPs.
Internet Industry Codes
The Schedules 5 and 7 of the Broadcasting Services Act are designed to provide a co-regulatory framework based on industry code established by the internet industry.
According to the Schedule 5, the affairs that must be dealt with by the industry codes for ISPs encircle enabling parents to better oversee the activities of their children, provision of filtering technologies, content labeling, legitimate assessments of content, and complaints handling procedures.
According to the Schedule 7, the affairs that must be dealt with by the industry codes for commercial content service providers encircle the involvement of trained content accessors and making sure that the content is accessed by these content accessors. Matters that may be dealt with include complaint-handling processes, promoting awareness of safety issues, and helping parents to monitor and control children’s access to internet content.
With these two schedules, 5 and 7, the Internet Industry Association (IIA) has established two industry codes – the Internet and Mobile Content Code and the Content Services Codes.
The codes implement different obligations on content hosts, internet providers, mobile carriers, and content service providers. Subject addressed include;
- Obligations in replying to the notices.
- Demands that what information must be given to users
- Needs about making filters available.
- Requirements about building complaints processes.
- The legit use of a restricted access system.
You can read further about the Broadcasting Services Act here.