Media Hamstrung by Code of Practice

The Code of Practice guiding the conduct of TV and radio broadcasters is outdated and should be scrapped.

Key reasons supplied by broadcasters,  in a report released by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), include the difficulty of sourcing adequate G-rated programming for the day time schedule, declining revenue as advertisers shift their investments to the web, and the costs of responding to code-related complaints.

In addition to these financial complaints, I see three broad problems with the Code of Practice, and indeed regulatory bodies like the ACMA, which ultimately prevent broadcasters from maintaining their relevance for Australians. 

Media is dynamic, bureaucratic regulation is not. As evidenced by ill-advised attempts to adapt existing intellectual property laws to digital media, top-down regulation will at best, play catch up with technological development, and at worst, cripple creativity and innovation.

People are capable of self-regulation. The perception that the public needs a regulatory body promote ethical conduct via positive representations  flies in the face of contemporary understandings of media as a resource that people use to communicate with one another, not a brainwashing technology inspiring anti-social behaviour. If indeed, screen media did compel people to mimic violent representations, our neighbourhoods would descend into a post-apocalyptic war zone following our daily dose of the evening news.

The values represented by the code are not universal. It is taken for granted that the code represents a national standard of values, when in fact it reflects the values of the loudest voices within the nation. What constitutes anti-social behaviour and undesirable identities is constantly re-negotiated by the public, and it would do well to remember that regulation guiding what can and cannot be represented on television, and at the movies, has in the past, outlawed the representation of inter-racial relationships and homosexual themes.

If large protest rallies supporting gay marriage and asylum seekers teach us anything, it is that the only thing standing in the way of ethical conduct by the people is governments. And if a lot of people want something it is likley that it will be profitable, and thus, businesses, even broadcasters, will cater to it.

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