Media policy and regulation: a quick guide

Updated 31 May 2022

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Philip Dearman and Emma Vines
Social Policy

This quick guide lists online resources relevant to Australian media legislation, policy administration, standards, ratings research, and industry advocacy. It includes links to selected overseas regulatory bodies.

Australian legislation

  • The Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (BSA) sets out the regulatory framework for the broadcasting industry in Australia. Its objects (outlined in section 3) include: promoting the availability of a diverse range of broadcasting and datacasting services; facilitating development of an industry that is efficient, competitive and responsive to audience need; encouraging ‘diversity in control of the more influential broadcasting services’; and promoting the role of broadcasting in ‘developing and reflecting a sense of Australian identity, character and cultural diversity’.
  • The Radiocommunications Act 1992 provides the regulatory framework for managing the radiofrequency spectrum in Australia.
  • The Online Safety Act 2021 (OSA) provides for reporting and complaints systems which address harms caused by cyber-bullying and cyber-abuse material, the illegal sharing of intimate images, and the sharing of certain forms of illegal online content.
  • The News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code is Part IVBA of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010. The Code, which was established in February 2021 and is administered by the ACMA, enables eligible news businesses to bargain individually or collectively with digital platform companies about payment for news on their platforms and services.
  • The Australian Broadcasting Corporation Act 1983 provides for the establishment and operation of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). According to its Charter, the ABC is required to provide informative, entertaining and educational services that ‘contribute to a sense of national identity and inform and entertain, and reflect the cultural diversity of, the Australian community’.
  • The Special Broadcasting Service Act 1991 provides for the establishment and operation of the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS). According to its Charter, SBS’s principal function is ‘to provide multilingual and multicultural broadcasting and digital media services that inform, educate and entertain all Australians and, in doing so, reflect Australia's multicultural society’.
  • The Copyright Act 1968 regulates copyright in Australia in relation to original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, and other subject matter (including sound recordings, films and television broadcasts).
  • The Interactive Gambling Act 2001 regulates interactive/Internet gambling services.

Federal regulatory and administrative authorities

Non-government regulatory and administrative bodies

Government agencies and companies

Advocacy groups

Media ratings and circulation information

  • Circulation figures for major metropolitan daily newspapers had been published by the Audited Media Association of Australia (AMAA) since the 1930s, but the publishers of all metropolitan daily newspapers moved to a system of private auditing in 2019. The AMAA does, however, remain a useful tool for checking the circulation of a considerable number of smaller regional mastheads. The AMAA’s reports are available via subscription. Users on the APH network are able to access the AMAA database via the Parliamentary Library catalogue.
  • ThinkNewBrands, which is jointly funded by News Corp, Nine and Seven West Media, commenced publishing aggregated news media readership data from August 2021. The company now works with Roy Morgan to measure news readership after the retirement of EMMA (Enhanced Media Metrics Australia) in 2021.
  • OzTAM conducts television audience measurement (TAM) in Australia’s five mainland metropolitan markets (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth), and nationally for subscription television. OzTAM’s VPM Report provides information on online video content streamed live or played on-demand by broadcasters who participate in its survey (ABC, Seven Network, Nine Network, Network 10, SBS and Foxtel).
  • Regional TAM provides information on free-to-air and subscription television viewing in regional Queensland, Northern NSW, Southern NSW, Victoria and Tasmania and Western Australia.
  • Commercial Radio Australia publishes surveys of radio audiences in Australia’s five metropolitan markets (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth), plus Newcastle, Canberra and the Gold Coast. It also publishes surveys completed in a range of smaller regional media markets.

Research centres

  • The Public Interest Journalism Initiative (PIJI) is an independent think tank, established in 2018 with a limited project duration of up to 5 years. PIJI’s purpose is to help establish ‘optimal market pre-conditions in investment and regulation that will sustain public interest journalism.’ PIJI’s Australian Newsroom Mapping Project provides a ‘comprehensive, visual and searchable index of news production availability—television, radio, print and digital publishing—across Australia.’
  • The News and Media Research Centre at the University of Canberra is a specialist research centre ‘dedicated to exploring news consumption, social and digital media networks, and the legal, ethical and social impacts of communication technologies.’
  • The Centre for Advancing Journalism at the University of Melbourne supports journalism through teaching and research.
  • The Centre for Media History at Macquarie University is Australia's only centre dedicated to conducting and fostering research on media history.
  • The Digital Media Research Centre at the Queensland University of Technology is a leader in digital humanities and social science research. Its programs focus on digital transformation, digital inclusion and governance, automation in the information environment, and the role of social media in public communication.
  • The Centre for Media Transition is an applied research unit based at the University of Technology Sydney, which focuses on the causes and consequences of digital disruption for media industries, the role of journalism in Australian democracy, and business models that support media diversity.
  • The International Association for Media and Communication Research encourages research in the areas of media production and consumption and the structure and transformation of media and communication markets.
  • Media is one of the areas of interest of the United States Pew Research Centre, which conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, content analysis and other data-driven social science research.
  • The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) produces occasional papers on media and collects statistics on media and information technology.
  • The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) promotes the free flow of ideas by word and image. It works to foster free, independent, and pluralistic media in print, broadcast and online.
  • The European Audiovisual Observatory collects and distributes information about audio-visual industries in Europe.

Selected overseas government and regulatory websites

European Union

  • The European Union develops rules to ensure that audio-visual media can circulate freely and fairly in the single European market.

United Kingdom


United States

  • The Federal Communications Commission is the American Government agency charged with regulating domestic and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable.

New Zealand

  • The Ministry for Culture and Heritage advises the New Zealand Government on matters concerning the arts, culture, heritage, sport and recreation, and broadcasting.


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