The Convergence Review of Australia’s media out today, is calling for the abolishment of media watchdog, in favour of a new statutory regulator
The Australia Communication and Media Authority (ACMA) and the existing Press Council. could get the boot if the Convergence Review final recommendations are implemented.
“The Review recommends that a new communications regulator be established to replace the existing Australian Communications and Media Authority.
“The regulator should operate at arm’s length from government direction, except in a limited range of specified matters” the final report states.
The communications regulator should incorporate a Classification Board as recommended in the recent Australian Law Reform Commission’s review.
Among the proposed regulator responsibilities, would be to define the thresholds for “content service enterprises” as media outlets would be known, administer the ‘minimum number of owners’ rule and the public interest test, and ensure obligations are adhered to.
The review into media ownership and competition was estalished by PM Julia Gillard last year partly in response to the phone hacking affair in the UK, which scandalised Rupert Murdoch’s News International and its close knit relationship with police, journalists and politicans.
In addition, the communications regulator should also have flexible powers to make rules on content-related competition issues and “to promote fair and effective competition in content markets. “
These powers would complement, rather than duplicate, the existing powers of the competition watchdog, the Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
The Review also outlines proposals that the ACCC retain regulatory powers over the telecommunications industry, and would be reviewed once the National Broadband Network is implemented.
The report also calls for the removal of the broadcast licensing regime and recommends the government adopt a “market-based approach to pricing broadcasting spectrum in line with for other types of radiocommunications spectrum.”
“The Review believes that many of the changes recommended in this report will streamline regulation and increase the effectiveness of the regulator’s operations,” it states.
The Minister for Broadband, Communications, Senator Stephen Conroy, said the government will will respond “o the recommendaitons “in due course.”
“The Government’s approach to regulatory reform builds on our substantial communications reform agenda, which includes the delivery of the NBN and digital television switchover.”
“I expect the recommendations will generate robust public debate,” Conroy said.