Earlier this month the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) approved amendments to broadcasting codes further restricting betting advertising1 and promotion of betting odds2 during live sporting events. The amendments to the codes come into effect on 30 March 2018 and will supplement the existing rules which regulate how television and radio broadcasters transmit betting advertising and promotion of betting odds.
The amendments to the codes were prompted by the Federal Government’s proposed reforms announced in May 2017. The government’s proposed bill3 is currently before the Senate and may further restrict how broadcasters communicate betting advertising and the promotion of betting odds, including in respect of online content service providers.
The restrictions on broadcasters advertising betting services and promoting betting odds are set out in industry codes of practice which are negotiated between the relevant industry and ACMA and take into account public feedback. ACMA must be satisfied that a code reflects appropriate community standards before registering it in under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (Act).4
The codes apply to broadcasts in various media of live sports, however, there are a number of important exemptions and carve outs. For example, the codes do not apply to:
- broadcasts of horse, harness or greyhound racing
- accidental or incidental references to betting advertising (i.e. branding on player’s or official’s uniform or advertising or signage which is at the venue in respect of which the broadcaster does not receive a direct or indirect benefit) or
- services that are delivered on a pay-per-view basis or services that are an active choice by the viewer associated with a live sporting event (for example, by using a button on a remote control to select data relating to betting odds on a particular event).
The new restrictions have been included in the codes of practice relating to:
- commercial television5
- subscription broadcast and narrowcast television6
- commercial radio7 and
- subscription narrowcast radio.8
Changes to the codes
The main changes to the codes are:
The new rules prohibit betting advertising between 5:00am and 8:30pm during live sporting events (including during scheduled breaks in play and unscheduled postponements in play), for five minutes before the start of play, and five minutes after play has concluded.
From 8:30 pm to 5.00 am, betting advertising may be broadcast before play in a sporting event has commenced, during scheduled breaks in play, during unscheduled postponements in play, and after play has concluded.
Promotion of betting odds (by someone other than a commentator or guest)
The new rules also prohibit promotion of betting odds between 5:00 am and 8:30 pm during live sporting events, five minutes before the start of play and five minutes after play has concluded.
From 8:30 pm to 5.00 am, promotion of betting odds by someone other than a commentator may be included in a broadcast before play has commenced or after play has concluded, provided the person promoting the betting odds is clearly identified as a representative of gambling organisations, does not appear as part, or as a guest, of the commentary team, and must not be at or around, or appear to be around, the sports venue where the live sporting event is taking place.
Additionally, from 8:30 pm to 5.00 am, broadcasters may broadcast the promotion of betting odds where this is a distinct break of at least 90 seconds during a long form sporting event and in the permitted frequency9, provided that the promotion is not for a race, match or game that has already commenced and the above rules regarding the appearance and location of promoter of the betting odds are adhered to.
The rules concerning commentators (and guests) promoting betting odds remain the same – that is, broadcasters must not broadcast a promotion of betting odds by a commentator (or guest) of a live sporting event at any time from 30 minutes before the commencement of play and until 30 minutes after the conclusion of play.
There are, however, exemptions to the additional restrictions during the 5:00am to 8:30pm time period which allow broadcasters to advertise betting and promote betting odds in limited circumstances, including where there is a non-related program of at least 30 minutes and the audience has been notified of the suspension of play (for example, during a rain delay of test cricket).
The additional restrictions during the 5:00 am to 8:30 pm time period also does not apply to low audience share channels10 (such as BeIN, ESPN and Eurosport channels) on subscription television in certain circumstances.
Proposed regulation of online content service providers
ACMA’s role in regulating betting advertising and promotion of betting odds during live sporting events is currently limited to television and radio broadcast platforms. The Communications Legislation Amendment (Online Content Services and Other Measures) Bill 2017 (Bill)) currently before the Senate proposes to amend the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 to establish a regulatory framework which will enable ACMA to make rules applicable to online content service providers in conjunction with a live sporting event.
Should you have any questions regarding the recent changes to the broadcasting codes or the Communications Legislation Amendment (Online Content Services and Other Measures) Bill 2017, please contact us.
1Under the subscription broadcast and narrowcast television codes, “betting advertising” (defined as “Commercials relating to Betting or Gambling” under the commercial television and radio codes) means a distinct promotional reference to (a) a gambling or betting service; or (b) a gambling or betting organisation that provides generic information about the organisation’s brand, business or services. However, the definition contains a number of exceptions (i.e. accidental or incidental references to betting).
2“Betting odds” means comparative, generally monetary, odds offered in respect of a game or event for a bet on the chance of any occurrence or outcome within that particular game or event, or the overall outcome of the game or event. Betting Odds includes comparative odds offered in respect of horse, harness or greyhound racing.
3Communications Legislation Amendment (Online Content Services and Other Measures) Bill 2017.
4Section 123(4)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992.
5Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice 2015.
6Subscription Broadcast Television Codes of Practice 2013; Subscription Narrowcast Television Codes of Practice 2013.
7Commercial Radio Code of Practice 2017.
8Subscription Narrowcast Radio Codes of Practice 2013.
9The permitted frequency of betting odds promotions varies depending on the sport. For example, the permitted frequency for golf is ‘not more than once on each day of competition. To be placed between sessions’.
10A low audience share channel is a television sport channel that has an average share of the metropolitan broadcast television (free-to-air television and subscription television) audience of 0.5% or smaller over a period of three previous consecutive financial years, or, if a channel has operated for less than three financial years, over all full financial years of its operation.”