Open for business? An update on our Broadcasting Act

10:01 AM, 12 September 2016

Do we need to revise TV advertising restrictions?

Broadcasting Minister Amy Adams has announced the government plans to update the Broadcasting Act. But the update doesn't deal with the inconsistency of Sunday advertising on TV.

Which broadcasting regulations may change with the new bill?

A major change proposed by the new Digital Convergence Bill involves advertising restrictions related to when broadcasters are prohibited from advertising.

Under the current legislation, television advertising is not allowed on Sunday mornings (as well as specific public holidays).

The Digital Convergence Bill will see these rules relaxed on Sunday mornings, but only during significant events -- such as the Rugby World Cup.

ANZA believes these amendments are not enough. How is it possible to block TV advertising on Sunday mornings when retailers are open for business during the same time? An online competitor, meanwhile, can trade - and promote that fact - across any online media 24/7, 365 days of the year.

Where is the consistency?

There is no good reason to retain different rules for TV (and radio) than other media. Leaving these restrictions as they are is particularly puzzling as they do not apply to other media channels.

The dramatic growth in popularity of 'smart' television sets, and of handheld personal devices used inside and outside the home, has already led to the absurdity that advertising that is restricted on free-to-air and subscription linear scheduled television services can be easily accessed by viewers using any number of online delivery platforms. On-demand broadcasters, offshore sports channels, social media, delayed viewing on MySky, Freeview or Tivo -- all these deliver advertising and sponsorship on the restricted days.

Not only that, but we currently have a ludicrous situation in which retailers are open for business on Sunday mornings - but can't advertise on TV. If a business is open and operating, shouldn't it be allowed to advertise its services / products?

There is a great opportunity being missed by keeping a large majority of these restrictions intact.

How much of an opportunity?

It is hypothesised that we are missing out on $400,000 and $600,000 for Sunday morning advertising.

And during the public holidays?

Think TV chief executive Road Hoar estimates the advertising ban on Easter Weekend and Christmas Day to cost the television industry between $5 million and $6.5 million in lost revenue. A fairly substantial sum, this economic boost would surely help an industry struggling with dropping ad revenue.

What do we do? Is there a solution?

While there are a few possible approaches, ANZA supports amending the Broadcasting Act to remove the current restrictions on advertising times. There are, however, two variations that might be considered.

One is to limit advertising in all audio-visual media - including those using free-to-air, subscription, and internet-delivered business models - scheduled on any day on which legislation prohibits commercial trading.

The other is to acknowledge that our predominantly secular society might benefit from some reflection on national identity, with advertising limitations on two days of special national significance -- ANZAC Day and Waitangi Day. Most linear scheduled free-to-air broadcasters acknowledge the importance of these days by scheduling 'day-specific' content.

Nevertheless, Waitangi Day and ANZAC Day afternoon are trading days, and such limitations would need to be consistent across all media distribution systems and not continue to disadvantage only those using the free-to-air business model.

Regardless of the approach we undertake, it is imperative we do more - the proposed changes of the new Digital Convergence Bill does not go far enough. We need consistency and we should have the option to advertise on TV during trading hours.

What are your thoughts on the current rules for TV advertising on Sundays? What are the benefits of keeping these restrictions? All feedback, queries, and opinions are welcomed to

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