By Dan Barrett
An update to the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice is in effect from today, with the move to permit M-rated content in the 7:30pm timeslot on Australia’s free-to-air channels. Seven is the first network to take advantage of the new classification rules, airing a 2010 episode of the factual series America’s Hardest Prisons. The episode, San Antonio: Gang War, is rated M and may contain Adult Themes or Medical Procedures. The episode airs tonight on digital multichannel 7Mate at 7:30pm.
Under the revised code M rated content will be permitted to air from 7:30pm, with MA15+ content allowed to be broadcasted from 8:30pm. Previously M-rated content could only air after 8:30pm and MA15+ content from 9pm. The industry has argued that the changes are keeping in line with changes to content consumption behaviours by the community afforded by the greater ease of access to varied content through platforms like Netflix.
The move has been criticised by a number of family lobby groups. Professor Elizabeth Handsley, president of the Australian Council on Children and the Media stated, “When the new Free TV Code of Practice commences, families will find it difficult to find any times of the day when they can sit down together to enjoy TV, without having to be constantly on guard.”
In a statement on its website, ACMA, who approved the code of practice, advised that “Contextual and environmental issues are important here. The fact that time zones are becoming less relevant is a reality. Both the Australian Law Reform Commission’s Classification Review and the ACMA’s own Contemporary Community Safeguards inquiry (CCSi) explored the impetus for, and the reality of, changes in this area.”
Programs to air with the M classification are required to carry consumer-advice, assisting viewers to make an informed viewing choice.