Making a complaint

Print Media (Newspapers and Magazines)

Australian Press Council

The Council is the principal body with responsibility for responding to complaints about Australian newspapers, magazines and associated digital outlets, such as websites. Its jurisdiction extends to all the print publications and related digital outlets of its constituent bodies, which collectively account for about 90% of all print media sales in Australia.

The Council currently receives more than 450 complaints each year. About 75% of those which are fully pursued by the complainant result in a correction, apology or some other form of action being taken. Where the complaint cannot be resolved without a formal adjudication, the publisher is required to publish the Council’s adjudication promptly and with due prominence.

What can be complained about?

Types of material
• Complaints may relate to news reports, articles, editorials, letters, cartoons, images and other published material. The Council does not consider complaints about advertising material, except where the complaint is that the material is not clearly identifiable as advertising.
• Where it is more appropriate for a complaint to be dealt with by another organisation, the Council will suggest that the complainant raises the matter with that organisation. This may occur where, for example, the complaint relates to advertising, or to broadcasts on radio or television.

Types of publications
• The Council considers complaints about material published in print or digital form by publishers which are “constituent bodies” of the Council. It can also consider complaints about the methods used by publications to obtain information. Most Australian newspapers and magazines, and their associated websites, are constituent bodies. So are some of the leading digital-only publishers.
• The Council may also consider complaints about material published by other publishers. But, unlike constituent bodies, those publishers are not under a legal obligation to cooperate with the Council or to publish any adjudication by it.
• Complaints are treated by the Council as being against the publication, not any individual journalist or editor. But in most complaints the Council’s consideration is likely to focus on the actions of journalists, editors or other media practitioners.

Who can complain?

General rule
• In general, any person may lodge a complaint about published material. They need not necessarily have been identified personally in the material or be directly affected by it.

• Where the complainant is not identified or directly affected, the Council may consult anyone who is directly affected before deciding whether to proceed further with the complaint. This may apply, for example, where a complaint concerns a person’s privacy and consideration of it by the Council might aggravate the breach of privacy.
• Save in exceptional circumstances, the Council will not consider complaints by one publisher against another publisher.

When should a complaint be made?

General rule
• A person can complain to the Council
◦ after having previously complained to the relevant publication; or
◦ at the same time as a complaint is made to the publication; or
◦ without having complained to the publication.
• Where a complaint is made directly to the Council, it may decide to
◦ commence its consideration of the complaint; or
◦ in some circumstances, ask the complainant to raise the complaint directly with the publication and then come back to the Council if its further involvement is sought.

Time limits
• Complaints must usually be made within sixty days of the first publication of the relevant material. Where appropriate, the complaint can be made with a request that the Council delays consideration of it until a specified event (eg, recovery from serious illness).
• A longer period than sixty days may be allowed where, for example, it was reasonable for the complainant not to have noticed the material earlier or there were good grounds for delaying submission of a complaint.

Legal proceedings
• The Council does not require complainants to undertake that they will not commence legal proceedings in relation to the material about which they are complaining. But they must tell the Council if they have done so or intend to do so.
• If legal proceedings are under way, the Council usually will delay consideration of a complaint until they have finished. However, the Council usually does not delay consideration merely because there is a possibility that legal proceedings may commence. In exceptional circumstances, it may decide to do so or to proceed only under specified conditions.

How should a complaint be made?

General rule
• Complaints should be made by completing the Council’s Complaint Form available from the website and sending it to the Council either online or by email, fax or post.

The contact details for the Australian Press Council are:
Phone: (02) 9261-1930 or 1800-025-712
E-Mail: For complaints about publications:

Postal and Street Address:
Australian Press Council
Suite 10.02, 117 York St
Sydney NSW 2000

For TV and Radio

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA)

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is a government agency responsible for the regulation of broadcasting, the internet, radiocommunications and telecommunications.

The ACMA’s responsibilities include:
• promoting self-regulation and competition in the communications industry, while protecting consumers and other users
• fostering an environment in which electronic media respect community standards and respond to audience and user needs
• managing access to the radio frequency spectrum
• representing Australia ‘s communications interests internationally.

The ACMA can only accept a complaint about a matter if you have already made a written complaint to the particular station.

You need to complain to the broadcaster first if you are complaining about something. This is because the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 establishes a co-regulatory regime, in which broadcasters themselves bear the primary responsibility for the material they broadcast. Most programming matters are covered by a code of practice.

There is a different code of practice for each broadcasting sector, so check the relevant code that applies to the broadcaster that you wish to complain about.

You can refer a complaint about a code matter to the ACMA if you do not receive a response from the station within 60 days, or if you receive a response but consider it inadequate. However, your complaint to the broadcaster has to be made in the way specified in that code. Each code of practice has a section that sets out requirements for the complaint process that applies to that particular broadcasting sector.

Complaints to commercial television stations must be made within 30 days of the broadcast and they must normally be made by mail, fax, or via an electronic lodgement form available on the Free TV Australia website:

A complaint to a commercial television station must, amongst other things, be received by the station in order to be a valid code complaint (ie one which can subsequently be referred to the ACMA). If you are posting a complaint to a station, you may wish to send it registered mail, in order to ensure the station receives it.

Complaints to commercial radio stations must contain a clear assertion that the station has broadcast matter which, in your opinion, breaches the Commercial Radio Australia Codes of Practice 2010. Complaints must be made by letter or fax, or via an online electronic complaint form in which identifying information of the complainant is required. Most stations have such a form available on their websites. If you make your complaint more than 30 days after the broadcast, the station is not obliged to respond to it.

Any complaint to any broadcaster must adequately identify the material of concern, eg by giving details such as the date/s of broadcast, and you should explain clearly the nature of your complaint. You are advised to make and keep a copy of any letter you send to a station, for future reference. If you lodge a complaint electronically, you are advised to make and keep a print-out and a record of the time and date your message was sent.

For complaints about the ABC or SBS, see their websites.

To make a complaint directly to ACMA email

Contact details:

Level 44 Melbourne Central Tower, 360 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne Vic. 3000
PO Box 13112 Law Courts, Melbourne Vic 8010
Tel: 03 9963 6800

Level 5 The Bay Centre, 65 Pirrama Road, Pyrmont NSW 2009
PO Box Q500, Queen Victoria Building NSW 1230
Tel: 02 9334 7700