The purpose of this standard is to enable audiences to protect children from material that unduly disturbs them, is harmful, or is likely to impair their physical, mental or social development.
The standard is designed to protect children when viewing and listening to broadcasts. If a complaint relates to a child having been featured or referred to in a programme, this may raise matters of fairness or privacy and should be dealt with under those standards.
Context is important in a consideration of this standard, including:
- the programme classification
- the time of broadcast (on free-to-air television and radio)
- any pre-broadcast advisories (including warnings)
- the nature of the programme
- the availability of filtering technology and whether availability has been promoted by the broadcaster
- the target audience of the channel/station and of the particular programme or segment
- audience expectations of the channel/station, of the programme or of a particular host or presenter
- other information available to the audience about the programme, including publicity and promos.
In general, for free-to-air television, the standard will only apply during times that children are likely to be watching television. Usually, this will be before and after school up until 8.30pm. Broadcasters should also carefully consider children’s interests when determining the level of M content to be screened during the transition from G or PG programming into M, 16 or 18 time.
On free to air television, children’s interests are served in a number of ways including through timebands, the availability of filtering technology which allows parents and caregivers to block certain content, which then requires a PIN number to be entered in order to unblock that content; and appropriate classification, the use of advisories (including warnings) and the appropriate scheduling of programmes.
There are no prescribed timebands on radio or on pay television as there are on free-to-air television. On radio, the standard will generally only apply during times that children are likely to be listening to the radio (for example, before and after school, and usually up until 8.30pm on weekdays, and on weekends).
On pay television, children’s interests are served through channels specifically targeted at niche audiences, and the availability of filtering technology which allows parents and caregivers to block certain content, which then requires a PIN number to be entered in order to unblock that content.
We recognise that it is not possible or practicable for broadcasters to shield children from all potentially unsuitable content. The objective is to allow broadcasters to broadcast to a wide audience – or in the context of pay television, to offer a wide range of content to niche audiences who choose to subscribe to special channels – while taking reasonable steps to protect children through adequate information for viewers and listeners, and through the availability of filtering technology. We expect all broadcasters who utilise filtering technology, or other means of controlling access to broadcast content, to provide information to viewers about the availability of this technology and how to use it.
The children’s interests standard is related to the good taste and decency standard and the programme information standard, which take into account the same contextual factors. However, there are differences in focus. The focus of this standard is on harm that may be unique to children; content that could be considered harmful to children may not be harmful or unexpected when considering the audience in general. Thus, the children’s interests standard may be more rigorous than the general good taste and decency standard.