A Federal Government review has recommended the biggest shake-up of media regulation in decades, with cross-media laws axed and the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) watchdog replaced with a regulator that would take a softer approach.
These are among the recommendations of the Convergence Review Committee, set up by Stephen Conroy’s Department of Communications, Broadband and the Digital Economy to deal with the effect of new digital and online technologies on the media and communications sector.
The committee was chaired by former IBM Australia CEO Glen Boreham, who predicted: “There will be a lot of debate coming out of this interim report.”
Most controversial of its recommendations are the ones suggesting an end to the laws that currently prevent anyone – such as Rupert Murdoch – dominating media outlets in one market. The interim report says laws currently preventing anyone controlling more than two out of the three traditional media outlets in one market should be abolished.
Almost as controversial is the move to abolish ACMA, and replace it with a new more flexible body.
“Our approach is to reduce the amount of regulation in the industry and to ensure the efficacy of that regulation,” Glen Boreham said yesterday.
But some industry groups are voicing concern, claiming the review team’s recommendations put Australia at risk of missing the full benefit of the growth of the digital economy.
Communications Alliance CEO John Stanton said he was concerned that a recommendation to expand Australian content requirements could stifle new technology and competition. “The prospect of seeking to impose Australian content requirements on international content suppliers might also deter the supply of some sources of content to Australian consumers,” said Stanton.
“The beauty of the digital economy is the explosion of new content types and sources it engenders. A converged regulatory framework should celebrate and support that growth.”
The Communications Alliance was also wary of the recommendation for a new “super regulator” to replace the ACMA, with broad and so far undefined rule-making powers. “The Convergence Review started with the objective of minimising regulation – we are concerned that some of its interim recommendations seem to be heading in the opposite direction,” said Stanton.
Comments on the report close Friday, February 10.