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Victorian Government communication requirements

General principles of Victorian Government communications, legislative requirements and governance arrangements.

Purpose

Communication and advertising assist with the effective delivery of government objectives by informing the community about government programs and services, changes to legislation, and important health and safety messages, such as those about bushfires, water, road or workplace safety.

The Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC) maintains these guidelines to ensure government communication and advertising is effective, well-managed, responsive to the diverse needs of the Victorian community, and complies with relevant legislation, including the Public Administration Act 2004 and the Public Administration (Public Sector Communication) Regulations 2018.

Scope

These guidelines apply to all Victorian Government departments and public sector bodies under the Public Administration Act 2004.

Definitions

Communication

Communication activities and messages are used to engage and inform the community about Victorian Government programs, services or policies.

Advertising

The activities involved in presenting a paid, sponsor-identified message about the Victorian Government and/or its programs, services or policies. Advertising may be in the form of print, radio, television, outdoor, online and other digital platforms.

All advertising undertaken by Victorian Government departments and bodies must be purchased through the government’s Master Agency Media Services (MAMS) contract, which is the relevant State Purchase Contract for the buying of advertising media.

Campaign advertising

Campaign advertising is paid media, designed to inform, educate, motivate or change behaviour of the general public. Campaign advertising requires strategic planning in the area of media and creative services to achieve set objectives. Advertising may be part of a broader communication and marketing plan.

Non-campaign advertising

Non-campaign advertising includes functional and recruitment advertising activity. For example, requests for tender, road closure notices, retail sales, statutory notices, public health, emergency or safety announcements, expressions of interest, details about community consultation and announcements of changes to government services. It usually differs from campaign advertising in the following ways:

  • has a short lead time
  • consists of text-based information notices
  • requires basic artwork with less creative input than campaign advertising
  • includes fewer media channels
  • is less costly
  • runs for shorter duration.

Functional advertising

Functional advertising is generally simple and informative and usually for immediate and short-term appearance. Functional advertising includes:

  • expressions of interest, requests for tender, requests for quote
  • public transport timetable notices and road closures
  • announcement of changes to government services
  • availability of government funds, grants and award programs
  • details about community consultation, public hearings, investigations, seminars, workshops and other government events
  • statutory/regulatory notices: legislative changes, environmental assessment or development notices
  • urgent public health or safety announcements (e.g. non statutory notices for emergency)
  • community announcements

Recruitment advertising

Recruitment advertising is intended to attract applications for a specific Victorian Government role or a number of roles for high-volume recruitment. Recruitment advertising usually appears for a short time, until the advertised roles have been filled.

Note that broader, longer term advertising activity to support large-scale recruitment campaigns is considered to be campaign advertising rather than recruitment advertising.

Victorian Government body

A Victorian Government department or public sector body, as defined in sections 4 and 5 of the Public Administration Act 2004.

General principles

Fairness, equity and non-discriminatory

Victorian Government communication must comply with the highest standards of fairness and equity, must be non-discriminatory, and take particular care to ensure:

  • the highest standard of decency in the portrayal of gender and sexuality
  • sensitivity to cultural needs, recognising that people have a right to access information regardless of their ethnic or religious background
  • requirements for people with a disability
  • access for groups who might otherwise be disadvantaged or excluded by means of location, language or economic factors

Comply with applicable laws and policies

Communication must comply with applicable legislation relating to financial management, probity, and accountability of government, particularly:

  • Part 5A of the Public Administration Act 2004, which:
    • establishes standards to ensure public sector communication is in the public interest and is not party political
    • sets standards for government advertising on television
  • the Public Administration (Public Sector Communication) Regulations 2018, which:
    • establish public interest purposes for public sector communication
    • set required standards for public sector communication
    • establish standards and requirements for public sector advertising

The specific requirements under the Public Sector Communication Regulations are further described below.

Other relevant laws and policies include:

  • laws in respect to broadcasting and media
  • privacy laws
  • intellectual property laws
  • electoral laws
  • trade practices, consumer protection and workplace relations laws
  • other Victorian Government communication policies and guidelines, including those covering multicultural and regional audiences, government sponsorships, accessibility of communications, the portrayal of gender, and inclusion use of Victorian Government authorisation tags

Government communication must also carry the appropriate Victorian Government branding, as specified in the Brand Victoria Guidelines.

Requirements under legislation

The Public Administration (Public Sector Communication) Regulations 2018 were introduced in September 2018 to strengthen the requirements for public sector communication and advertising.

The Regulations apply broadly to all public sector bodies under the Public Administration Act 2004.

The main requirements of the Regulations are summarised below.

Public sector communication must be in the public interest

Regulation 4 sets out a number of ‘public interest purposes’ for public sector communication. All public sector communication (including advertising) must fulfil one of the purposes listed below. Examples of each public interest purpose are provided.

Public interest purposes under Regulation 4 Examples of appropriate communication
(a) To inform the public of new, existing or proposed public sector policies or projects or Victorian legislation Awareness campaigns to inform the public about major infrastructure projects or changes to Victorian laws
(b) To promote public safety, personal security or behavioural change Messages around bushfires, water, road and workplace safety
(c) To advocate on behalf of Victoria to advance Victoria’s position or interests Promotion of Victorian-based businesses for national or international contracts
(d) To promote awareness of rights, responsibilities, duties or entitlements Campaigns to inform tenants of their rights and people who may be eligible for utility concessions
(e) To encourage understanding or use of public sector products and services Campaigns to raise awareness of public transport options or vehicle registration services
(f) To report on performance in relation to public sector undertakings Progress updates on projects, timeliness statistics for services
(g) To promote social cohesion, civic pride or community spirit Promotion of Australia Day celebrations or Anzac Day commemorations
(h) To encourage public involvement in decision-making by public sector bodies Invitation for opportunities to participate in community consultations
(i) To recruit staff Advertising for positions available within Victorian public sector bodies
(j) To promote business opportunities within the public sector Tender notices and expressions of interest for business to work on Victorian Government projects
(k) To promote commercial or economic development within Victoria Promotion of tourism in Victoria or promoting Victorian businesses interstate or overseas
(l) To generate revenue for public sector bodies or for Victoria through consumption of products or services delivered by or in partnership with public sector bodies Campaigns to encourage membership, enrolment at TAFE or for public sector bodies, such as art institutions or sporting events, to sell tickets or merchandise

Standards for public sector communication and advertising

Regulations 5 and 6 prohibit certain communication activities, particularly communication or advertising that may be perceived as party political.

Regulation 5 prescribes the following public sector communication standards:

Communication standard under Regulation 5 Description
(1)(a) The public sector communication does not refer to a political party A departmental webpage communication that names a state or federal political party would not be compliant.
(1)(b) The public sector communication does not include a slogan, image, logo or the branding of a political party A communication that includes the logo of a state or federal political party would not be compliant.

(1)(c) The public sector communication does not include the links to the website of a

(i) political party;

(ii) candidate for election; or

(iii) a member of Parliament

The About Us webpage of a government department that includes a link to the website of a political party would not be compliant.

Note: Regulation 5(2), below, provides that a public sector communication may include a link to the social media account of a member of Parliament.

(1)(d) The public sector communication does not denigrate without grounds individuals, groups or organisations

A communication that denigrates an organisation without grounds would not be compliant.

Note: Government may sometimes need to publish reports that include negative findings against individuals or organisations. Providing there are grounds for the negative findings, such a report would not contravene this regulation.

(1)(e) The public sector communication does not present statistics or comparisons in a manner that is deliberately inaccurate or deliberately misleading A communication that uses statistics and comparisons in a deliberately misleading way would not be compliant.
(1)(f) The public sector communication does not present information as fact if that information is not reasonably able to be substantiated as fact

A government agency may publish third-party information on its website (for example, a discussion paper by a research organisation) to support public consultation efforts.

However, the agency must not present this information as ‘fact’ if the information is not reasonably able to be checked and substantiated as fact.

(1)(g) The public sector communication does not name, portray or promote members of Parliament in a manner regarded as excessive or gratuitous The webpage of a government department that includes a biography listing the Minister’s achievements while in government would not be compliant.
(2) Despite sub-regulation (1)(c)(iii), a public sector communication may include links to the social media account of a member of Parliament.

This regulation permits a public sector communication to link to the social media account of a member of Parliament.

This provision recognises that social media is a contemporary and cost effective means for government to communicate with the community.

It also anticipates situations (such as during emergencies) where it is in the public interest for public sector communications to link to a Minister’s social media account as a timely and reliable source of information.

Note: All public sector communications must comply with Regulation 5(1)(g), above.

This means any linking to the social media accounts of a member of Parliament cannot promote the member in an ‘excessive or gratuitous’ manner.

Regulation 6 applies specifically to government advertising, and prohibits advertising from referring to political parties or their leaders.

Advertising standard under Regulation 6 Description

It is a prescribed advertising standard that a public sector communication does not refer to the State, the Parliament or the public sector by reference to

(a) the name of the leader of a political party; or

(b) the name of a political party.

A government television commercial promoting Victoria as a tourist destination that uses the name of a political party to refer to the state would not be compliant.

Advertising to promote government services, activities or infrastructure projects

Regulation 7 is a new requirement, introducing public sector communication standards for promoting services, activities or infrastructure projects:

Advertising standard under Regulation 7 Description

It is a prescribed advertising standard that a public sector communication does not directly promote services, activities or infrastructure projects for which funding for the development, commencement or delivery of those services, activities or infrastructure projects has not yet been provided

Advertising to promote activities, services or infrastructure projects that have not yet received funding. Would not be compliant.

However, this Regulation does not prevent public sector bodies from undertaking advertising to promote opportunities for public consultation about a proposed new infrastructure project, for example, provided that funding has been provided for the development of the project.

Communication by the Victorian Electoral Commission for elections

Regulation 8 introduces rules around public sector communication undertaken by the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC), specifically related to the conduct of elections:

Communication standard under Regulation 8 Description

Despite Regulation 5 (a), (b) and (c), the Victorian Electoral Commission, for the purposes of conducting an election, may publish a public sector communication that:

(a) refers to political party; or

(b) includes a slogan, image or logo or the branding of a political party; or

(c) includes the link to the website of a political party, a candidate for election or a member of Parliament.

Regulation 8 provides an exemption that allows the VEC to refer to a political party, use branding or images of a political party or links to the website of a political party, candidate for election or member of Parliament, providing the communication is for the purposes of conducting an election

Public sector communication with references to the Premier

Regulation 9 allows a public sector communication to refer to the Premier or link to a website maintained by the Premier, providing the communication is in relation to the Premier while acting in his or her capacity as Premier.

Communication standard under Regulation 9 Description

A public sector body may publish a public sector communication that

(a) includes a link to the website maintained by or on behalf of the Premier in the Premier’s capacity as Premier; or

(b) names, portrays or promotes the Premier in the Premier’s capacity as Premier.

This Regulation allows a public sector communication to portray or promote the Premier, as long as the communication portrays or promotes the Premier in his or her capacity as Premier – for example, to promote a major event in Victoria.

Public sector bodies using the MAMS contract

Regulation 10 makes it a requirement that Victorian Government public sector bodies purchase advertising through the MAMS contract, unless granted an exemption:

Advertising standard under Regulation 10 Description
(1) It is a prescribed advertising requirement that media placements must be purchased under a relevant State Purchase Contract for media services

This regulation requires that public sector bodies purchase all advertising through the relevant State Purchase Contract – the MAMS contract.

This applies to both campaign and non-campaign advertising.

This requirement is consistent with the rules of the MAMS State Purchase Contract, which require all Victorian Government departments and a number of agencies to use the MAMS contract for all of their advertising.

Note: Because Regulation 10 applies to all ‘public sector bodies’ under the Public Administration Act 2004, the requirement to use the MAMS contract applies to a broader range of government entities under the rules of the State Purchase Contract.

(2) Despite sub-regulation (1), a public sector body may advertise or cause to be advertised a public sector communication under a contract other than a State Purchase Contract in the following circumstances

(a) the public sector body is purchasing or causing to be purchased a form of media placement that is outside the scope of the relevant State purchase contract; or

(b) the public sector body is purchasing or causing to be purchased a form of media placement that is available as an optional or ancillary service within the relevant State Purchase Contract; or

(c) no relevant State Purchase Contract is in place; or

(d) the public sector body is exempt from advertising the public sector communication under the relevant State Purchase Contract in accordance with Regulation 11.

There are a number of exemptions to the requirement to use the MAMS contract:

  • where the service being purchased is not included within the MAMS contract
  • where the service is an optional service under the MAMS contract
  • where there is no MAMS contract in place
  • where the public sector body has been granted an exemption by DPC and DTF under Regulation 11.

Public sector bodies exempt from using the MAMS contract

Regulation 11 allows the Secretary to the Department of Premier of Cabinet, in consultation with the Secretary to the Department of Treasury and Finance, to exempt a public sector body from advertising a public sector communication under a State Purchase Contract:

Exemption under Regulation 11 Description
(1) Subject to sub-regulation (2), the Secretary to the Department of Premier and Cabinet may, by notice in the Government Gazette, exempt a public sector body from advertising a public sector communication under a State Purchase Contract This regulation allows the Secretary of DPC, in consultation with the DTF Secretary, to exempt a public sector body from the MAMS contract
(2) The Secretary to the Department of Premier and Cabinet must not exempt a public sector body under sub-regulation (1) unless the Secretary has consulted the Secretary to the Department of Treasury and Finance All requests for exemption must originate from and be supported by the Strategic Communication, Engagement and Protocol Branch of DPC.

Effective, well managed and evaluated

In addition to the above requirements, communication by Victorian Government entities must be timely, accurate, effective, well planned, appropriately managed and delivered within budget. Communication and advertising activities must be evaluated to assess their effectiveness and value for money.

Governance and reporting

DPC will monitor compliance with the guidelines and provide leadership and guidance in relation to communication activities across the Victorian Government. DPC facilitates government approval processes for government advertising and reports on government advertising expenditure.

Ministers, departmental secretaries and entity chief executive officers must seek approval of annual communication plans and relevant campaigns through the government approval process.

All proposed campaign advertising expenditure across Victorian Government is submitted to DPC for inclusion in the government’s Annual Advertising Plan.

Throughout the year, individual campaign advertising strategies are submitted to DPC by departments and agencies for further scrutiny to ensure their effectiveness and value for money.

Victorian Government entities must evaluate and report on campaigns with a media spend of $100,000 or more in their annual reports. Departmental secretaries and chief executive officers of government entities must certify compliance with relevant policies, guidelines and legislation.

Further information and exemptions

If you are undertaking a communication activity on behalf of the Victorian Government, please contact the departmental communication branch in the first instance.

General exemptions from compliance with Victorian Government policies and guidelines will not be granted. All requests for a specific exemption must be made in writing by the relevant departmental Senior Communication Executive, on behalf of the department or agency, to the Executive Director, Strategic Communication, Engagement and Protocol Branch at DPC.

Enquiries and feedback on these guidelines should be directed to:

Strategic Communication, Engagement and Protocol Branch

Department of Premier and Cabinet

Email: advertising@dpc.vic.gov.au

Web: www.vic.gov.au/advertising-government-communications

Victorian Government communication policies and guidelines

These guidelines operate alongside a number of other Victorian Government policies and guidelines. These policies and guidelines cover specific requirements for government communication and advertising, with a focus on ensuring all Victorians have access to government communication.

Brand Victoria Guidelines

Government communication must carry the appropriate Victorian Government branding and adhere to the Brand Victoria Guidelines.

Authorisation Tag Guidelines

The government’s Authorisation Tag Guidelines provide detailed instructions for placing an authorisation tag for government communication and advertising, for depending on the communication medium or channel.

Sponsorship Policy

Sponsorships received or provided by the Victorian Government must be managed, evaluated and reported as per the government’s Sponsorship Policy.

Accessible Communications Guidelines

The Accessible Communications Guidelines set the requirements for making all government communications accessible for people with a disability.

Gender Portrayal Guidelines

Victorian Government entities have an obligation to ensure that portrayals of women and men are positive, suitable for general viewing, and contribute to the elimination of systemic discrimination based on gender.

Multicultural Communication Policy

Victorian Government departments and agencies are required to ensure that Victoria’s multicultural communities are informed of government services and programs.

Regional Communication Policy

Victorian Government entities have an obligation to ensure that regional communities are explicitly considered in government communication and advertising.

Digital Standards Framework

The Whole of Victorian Government Digital Standards Framework is the central reference for government for digital best practice, and where they apply, mandatory standards.

Reviewed 27 August 2019

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Strategic Communication, Engagement and Protocol Branch Department of Premier and Cabinet

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