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Government regulator admits inability to keep pace with media convergence

August 30, 2011

For anyone that wasn’t watching, ACMA (Australian Communications & Media Authority) – the government regulator of our communications and media broadcast laws – admitted in a 93 page report the other day their inability to properly legislate media in a time of rapid media convergence.

In their words, the “patchwork quilt” that is the communications landscape has resulted in their ability to regulate those 523 pieces of media and communications legislation being “broken or significantly strained” by recent developments in media.


And if you think it’s bad that a government has had to admit they can’t keep up with the pace of evolution in human communication, it ain’t about to get better folks!

Not that I blame them really – I don’t need to explain here just how quickly technology has changed the way people communicate, and the boundaries between media are so blurred right now that the old way of law-making just doesn’t fit the bill anymore (pardon the pun).

A recent example that springs to mind is the battle between Channel 9 in Australia and Telstra’s Bigpond, over a rugby league iPad application for the annual State of Origin Series between New South Wales and Queensland.  Telstra, who owned the rights for all digital communication (website etc), challenged Channel 9 – the TV broadcaster – who had created a fantastic iPad app to complement their audience’s TV viewing habits. I was actually keen to see it in action, but the application never came to fruition because of a conflict over whether an iPad or mobile application was part of the broadcast or  digital communication rights. In the end, Channel 9 gave up because it wasn’t worth the legal stoush – and let’s face it – ACMA’s revelations simply point out that the legal system wouldn’t know how to resolve such a dispute in the courts. Just look at how they’re dealing with the Apple vs Samsung patent issue.

My worry here is that if government is unable to figure out – and quickly – how to regulate media in a time of rapid technological advancements, then we will face a situation where each nation’s court system will rule on media and communications issues by precedent – which would ultimately mean different rules for different markets, which could slow the pace of convergence by restricting it. I’d hate to see this kind of situation come into effect.

So what happens in an ideal situation? I’d say that the government needs to realize that the entire way they view media and broadcasting needs to be wiped clean, and new rules formed based on where media is clearly headed. The existing rules around how many TV stations and newspapers any one company can own in a market (long the source of debate and controversy in Australia between the media powerhouses) is now irrelevant –  let’s start over before it’s too late!

You can find the full ACMA report here: http://engage.acma.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/ACMA_Broken-Concepts_Final_29Aug1.pdf

 Deliriant Isti Romani – These Romans are Crazy!

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