The Australian Government has recently released its Convergence review report.
The paper sets out a possible future framework for adapting media regulations and managing community objectives in the digital age. This sounds simple when you say it quickly, but as the report shows we have a myriad of public objectives and regulations across broadcasting, telecommunications, films, games and publishing that are all hostage to the old rules and silos of media.
As we move from a controlled, licensed environment to a global media market where the consumer has control of what content and services they allow onto their screens, what are the local rules of engagement to protect diversity, local voices and community standards, and are we too late?
The authors have done a workman like job in capturing the key questions, principles and standards that need to be reviewed to move the discussion and debate forward. There is an attempt to balance between potential courageous recommendations and the need to address the status quo’s that exist in the Australian media landscape. The scope of the review may have been too broad and it has brought comment, rebukes and attacks from a range of stakeholders, most are from a position of self interest.
It seems to trend towards more regulation of the known and the current players and leaves the door open to a new class of organisation called the Content Services Enterprise with some high thresholds that exclude current market players like Google/Youtube, Telstra, Apple/iTunes. While the overall intent of the report is light touch legislation it certainly requires a rewrite of almost all existing regulations to move anywhere close to the stated recommendations. It requires wholesale changes to the Broadcasting Services Act, the Telecommunications Act and the Classification Act as well as changes to industry codes, the Media regulator (ACMA), and the Classification review board.
This is the start of the conversation and the framework has been set as we move into a political cycle it would be a courageous Government that turned this into party policy with the balance of power being so tightly balanced, and these issues do not resonate with the average voter. So expect some broad statements of support in principal and lots of reviews or the recommendations before we will see much in the way of change. The only certainty is the convergence is already happening in the homes of Australian consumers much faster than any regulation can capture.