News November 9, 2017

EXCLUSIVE: The body that oversaw Australian music quotas on commercial radio no longer exists

EXCLUSIVE: The body that oversaw Australian music quotas on commercial radio no longer exists

There is currently no independent oversight of Australian music quota compliance on commercial radio. TMN can reveal that the committee previously responsible for monitoring compliance was quietly wound up in the last year – a change reportedly initiated by the commercial radio industry peak body. 

The Australian Music Performance Committee, or AMPCOM, was made up of delegates from ARIA, Commercial Radio Australia (CRA), APRA AMCOS (representing AMPAL, the Australian Music Publishers’ Association), and the Musicians’ Union and the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA).

The goals of the voluntary association were, as given in the 2013 edition of the Commercial Radio Code of Practice and on AMPCOM’s page on the ARIA website, were:

“(a) To maximise the exposure of Australian music on commercial radio, having due regard to the availability of appropriate broadcast-worthy material and the needs and preferences of the Australian listening public.

“(b) To monitor the commercial radio industry’s observance of Code of Practice 4 of the Commercial Radio Codes of Practice (Australian Music) registered by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (“the Code”).

“(c) To monitor the music industry’s production of Australian music performances and composition.

“(d) To monitor the effects of the Code on performers, composers, producers of sound recordings, musicians and broadcasters.

“(e) To review the operation of the Code and to recommend changes to CRA as considered necessary.

“(f) To consider such other matters, relevant to the above objects, as the Committee thinks fit.”

From 2004 to 2015/16, ARIA on behalf of AMPCOM also produced regular reports on commercial radio’s broadcasting of local content.

ARIA and APRA both told TMN that the removal of AMPCOM from the compliance process was spearheaded by CRA, in the form of a revised Code of Practice that completely excised AMPCOM’s role from the section covering Australian music, and that ACMA opted not to replace AMPCOM with any other review body or process.

“At the time ARIA made submissions to ACMA proposing that an alternative review process (for example, managed by ACMA itself) be established,” an ARIA spokesperson told TMN in an email this morning.

“That suggestion was not taken up, and in March 2017 a new Code – absent AMPCOM or any other specific review body for the Australian music requirements – was adopted.”

“When the Code of Practice was reviewed in late 2016, APRA AMCOS met with the ACMA and expressed its view that AMPCOM was an ineffective instrument for monitoring CRA’s compliance with the commercial radio code of practice,” said a spokesperson for APRA AMCOS.

“At that time APRA AMCOS also advocated for ACMA itself to potentially take greater responsibly with regard to that process, however that suggestion was not adopted.”

“APRA AMCOS will continue to lobby the ACMA for an independent review mechanism with the necessary authority and audit provisions to ensure commercial radio stations’ compliance with the CRA’s Code of Practice.”

CRA declined to comment on the record regarding who initiated the change. Chief executive officer Joan Warner noted that the Code now requires yearly reports to be made to ARIA, and that the music industry bodies assented to this requirement.

“This was raised by CRA with ARIA who then consulted with APRA, AMCOS and AMPAL,” Warner told TMN. “ARIA informed CRA in March, before the Code was finalised and registered, that after consultation with their colleagues in the music industry they were fine with the change to reporting.”

Industry bodies considered the Committee relatively toothless from a regulatory standpoint – APRA AMCOS in particular noted that AMPCOM were unable to audit data provided by commercial radio in order to verify the reported numbers – and CRA’s explanatory note accompanying the draft Code released in March 2016 claims that AMPCOM had not met since 2010.

However, it was the only body overseeing quota compliance and related matters, and there is no equivalent or replacement currently active.

Analysis conducted by AIR and discussed in a closed-door session at BIGSOUND earlier this month suggest that a number of commercial stations are regularly and significantly falling short of their quotas.

CRA is yet to produce the report covering the 2016/2017 commercial radio content returns. Warner says this is due at the end of 2017.

AMPCOM is generally considered to have been dissolved in March, upon the adoption of the new Code. TMN could not find any press releases or public statements from the time or the review process specifically announcing or referring to the removal of AMPCOM.

ACMA had not responded to TMN’s enquiries by the time of publication.

TMN also approached the MEAA, but the entertainment and media union was unable to comment on the record.

This story has been updated to include information from the draft Code explanatory note.

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