The well-being of Australian children has come under a new threat. Once again we as Canberra Declaration signees have an opportunity to pray and act.
Free TV Australia, an industry body which represents all of Australia's commercial free-to-air television licensees, is seeking major changes to the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice.
The Rev Dr Ross Clifford, the President of the NSW Council of Churches, summarised the proposed changes saying "the changes to the Code of Practice would mean that violence, sexual content, and advertisements for alcohol, gambling and M-rated movies and DVDs would be screened during popular programs that children watch."
In particular Free TV Australia seeks to move the M (Mature - content generally suitable for age 17 and up) classification start time from 8:30pm to 7.30pm. Roslyn Phillips, the National Research Officer for FamilyVoice Australia, explains that "M-rated programs may contain moderately strong violence, including sexual violence, injecting drug use, coarse language and simulated scenes of intimate sexual activity."
The proposed Code of Practice also drops the AV (adult violence) classification and allows MA15+ programs to be screened from 8.30pm. Gambling and alcohol advertising will continue during sports broadcasts.
Another major proposed change is eliminating the G (General Audiences - all ages admitted) rating by introducing a PG (Parental Guidance suggested) rating across all channels all day. This means that children would no longer be safe to watch television unsupervised by their parents.
Complaints about a given program quickly made by phone or fax would no longer be accepted. Only written complaints by a person, who can show that they have actually watched the program, would be allowed. This makes the complaint process slow and cumbersome and therefore less likely to be used.
Dr Glenn Cupit, Vice-President of the Australian Council on Children and the Media, a unique national community organisation whose members share a strong commitment to the promotion of the healthy development of Australian children, said that "the Code [of Practice] is clearly written from the point of view of the industry."