08 Jul 2011

Everything that rises must converge: The Convergence Review seeks views on emerging issues

by Kate Jordan, Mary Still, Jim FitzSimons, Toby Ryston-Pratt, Bruce Lloyd

The Australian Government's Convergence Review has released a consultation paper, Emerging Issues, which summarises some of the information received throughout the last few months of consultation.

What's new?

First, the principles guiding the Committee's deliberations, and outlined in the framing paper, have been amended somewhat and some new ones introduced:

  • Principle 1 [new]: Citizens and organisations should be able to communicate freely, and where regulation is required, it should be the minimum needed to achieve a clear public purpose.
  • Principle 2 [changes in bold]: Australians should have access to and opportunities for participation in a diverse mix of services, voices, views and information
  • Principle 3 [changes in bold]: The communications and media market should be innovative and competitive, while balancing outcomes in the interest of the Australian public.
  • Principle 4: Australians should have access to Australian content that reflects and contributes to the development of national and cultural identity.
  • Principle 5 [new]: Local and Australian content should be sourced from a dynamic domestic content production industry.
  • Principle 6 [changes in bold]:Australians should have access to news and information of relevance to their local communities, including locally-generated content.
  • Principle 7: Communications and media services available to Australians should reflect community standards and the views and expectations of the Australian public.
  • Principle 8 [changes in bold]: Australians should have access to the broadest possible range of content across platforms, services and devices.
  • Principle 9 [changes in bold]: Service providers should provide the maximum transparency for consumers regarding their services and how they are delivered.
  • Principle 10: The government should seek to maximise the overall public benefit derived from the use of spectrum assigned for the delivery of media content and communications services.

Secondly, it identifies emerging issues as:

  • the new market structures that move from industry silos to a converged structure based on layers;
  • regulatory parity – a policy framework can develop around a specific service regardless of its mode of delivery;
  • the recognition of the global reach of internet services in any new policy framework;
  • whether the key policies underpinning the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 are still appropriate;
  • the role of content quotas;
  • whether cross-media ownership rules are still necessary to ensure media diversity;
  • content rights acquisition and competition laws;
  • the need to apply community standards; and
  • broadcast licence fees, the future of further digital television channels and the policy framework for allocating spectrum in the public interest.

How to make a comment

The Convergence Review has an open call for submissions up to 28 October 2011, meaning that your submissions are not limited to the matters discussed in the Emerging Issues paper, but can extend to matters raised in the public hearings or in response to the detailed discussion papers which are yet to come.

In particular, you're invited to:

  • raise new issues you feel the Committee has omitted
  • provide ideas for changes to the current regulatory framework
  • provide ideas about how policy frameworks can be reinvented
  • identify barriers to innovation and competition in the current environment
  • provide new and innovative mechanisms for addressing some of the issues raised in the emerging issues paper – for example, ways to increase competition, encourage innovation or provide better consumer and citizen outcomes; or
  • provide details of regulatory, non-regulatory or de-regulatory solutions to issues raised so far.

More details of the consultation process, including public hearings, will be released in the near future. The final report is due by March 2012.

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Clayton Utz communications are intended to provide commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular transactions or on matters of interest arising from this communication. Persons listed may not be admitted in all States and Territories.