Complaints & Disputes


As community broadcasters, it is our responsibility to abide by a number of legislative requirements in programming content and station operations, including the responsibility to respond to complaints. Under the Community Radio Broadcasting Codes, community broadcasters must make every reasonable effort to resolve a complaint, except where it is frivolous, vexatious or not made in good faith.

Complaints can be both internal and external. Internal complaints could possibly result from dissatisfaction amongst the board, staff and volunteers of a community broadcasting organisation. External complaints will come from your listening audience and community of interest and will most likely focus on the on-air activities of your station, although the scope and nature of complaints can be wide and varied.

As a community organisation, it is hoped that community broadcasters will attempt to address any complaints in a swift and comprehensive manner.

Legal Obligations

The Broadcasting Services Act 1992 outlines a number of licence conditions and program standards that are applicable to all our stations. A licensee is also bound by the conditions upon which their licence was issued or last renewed. In addition, we are required to observe the Community Radio Codes of Practice 2008 (the Codes) that guide all areas of station activity.

Role of the ACMA

The Australian Communication and Media Authority’s role is to determine whether stations have implemented the processes outlined in the Codes, and are therefore upholding the standards applicable to all community broadcasters. The ACMA assesses whether stations are complying with the Codes and determines if a breach has occurred.

The Codes include a provision for community broadcasters to advise a complainant in writing about the right to refer their complaint to the ACMA if dissatisfied with the licensee’s response.

If a complainant does not receive a response within 60 days, or receives a response but considers it to be inadequate, they may then make a complaint to the ACMA about the matter. It is therefore in the interest of licensees to, as far as is practicable, resolve complaints so that they are not escalated to the ACMA, and the ACMA decides to investigate, the relevant licensee will be required to thoroughly address the issues and provide evidence to support their claims.

The ACMA is unable to investigate a complaint that is not covered by the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 or regulations, licence conditions or code of practice. This includes complaints about issues that are the responsibility of a licensee, another government agency or an industry body. Examples are listed in the table below.

The CBAA has put together a Complaints and Disputes Toolkit which is an invaluable resource for community radio stations aiming to establish or refine a system for managing complaints and disputes

National peak bodies working in the charity sector have made available resources to assist the complaint handling process for charities. 

Tips for managing internal conflict.

Disagreements are a regular part of any community organisation such as a community radio station – and in fact, they can be a healthy thing.

Whatever your role, dealing with interpersonal conflict can make life miserable – before, during and after hours. Build skills, strategies and learn how to implement the necessary processes and procedures.