Australian free-to-air commercial broadcaster Nine has found itself in cold waters with the Australian Communications and Media Authority /ACMA/, and forced to either re-arrange its advertising strategy or undertake additional staff training, to make sure rules for gambling-related ads regarding live sports coverage are not breached again.
Breach Due To Misinterpretation
The independent Commonwealth statutory authority, responsible for the regulations of communication and media services on the continent, the ACMA, has found out Nine in breach of the law after the online media operator has aired gambling advertisements during the pre-game program for games one and two of the State of Origin rugby league series. The two occasions appeared on its 9Now streaming platform and raised the question whether the media company had properly trained its staff regarding the rules for gambling ads.
The issue stems from the definition of “scheduled start of a sporting event”, which for an online content service is the specified start of the live coverage of play of the sporting event, announced by the online content provider at least 24 hours before that. In cases where no announcement beforehand happens, the scheduled start is the actual start of the live coverage, irrespective whether actual play of the sport event commences later.
Gambling advertising content is allowed up to 5 minutes before the scheduled start of the sporting event, and ACMA’s investigation found out Nine had not announced the scheduled start on both occasions, meaning that the start is the pre-game coverage, rather than the game itself.
ACMA Goes For The Lesser Punishment
The media and communications authority issued a direction for remedy, where the media broadcaster should carry out staff training on rules regarding gambling advertising content on online platforms, and submit written reports within the next 12 months showing compliance with the aforementioned rules.
If the online media broadcaster fails to perform the prescribed remedy, a penalty of up to AUD$420,000 could be dished out by the ACMA, a regulator not shy of taking decisive actions, if needed.
As explained by ACMA officials, the regulator is seeking to send a message that the rules are there to prevent children from seeing gambling advertising content while watching live sports events with their families and it is the regulator’s responsibility to uphold the rules and set an example for all operators that breaches will not be tolerated.
Efforts To Inform And Protect
Earlier in the week, the media regulator issued a warning to consumers in the country about the increased number of scam emails and SMS messages claiming to offer gambling credit and free spins, with more than 6,000 e-mails and messages identified by ACMA since the start of 2020. Furthermore, ACMA informed Australians that the links provided in the e-mails could potentially be used for spreading viruses and malware, asking consumers to delete such communication.