Convergence breaking regulations: ACMA

The regulatory body says digital convergence is straining and in some cases, breaking existing regulations

The rapid convergence of communications and media has caused a meltdown in the effectiveness of existing regulatory arrangements, according to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

In a discussion paper on the issue of regulation in the face of convergence, the Australian communications regulator said the majority of some 55 legislative concepts that formed the building blocks of current communications and media regulatory arrangements were either broken or under significant strain.

Discussing the causes, ACMA said that digitalisation had fundamentally broken the nexus between the shape of content and the container which carries it, with the effect that content services are now independent of delivery platforms.

“One important consequence of this change is that regulation constructed on the premise that content could (and should) be controlled by how it is delivered is losing its force, both in logic and in practice,” the paper reads.

“In practical ways, this is affecting the day-to-day work of the regulator in administering legislation, and applying these concepts to innovative services and delivery mechanisms that were not envisaged at the time existing core legislation was enacted.”

Detailing the consequences of convergence, ACMA said misalignment of policy and legislative constructs with market, behavioural and technological realities were a result, as well as gaps occurring in the existing framework’s coverage of new forms of content and applications.

The blurring of boundaries between historically distinct devices, services and industry sectors leading to inconsistent treatment of like content, devices or services was occurring, as was greater institutional ambiguity such that several regulators — or no regulators — have a clear mandate to address pressing market or consumer concerns.

In related ACMA news, the regulator late last week said Optus was overhauling its telemarketing practices as a result of an enforceable undertaking accepted by ACMA.

According to the regulator, an investigation found Optus had inadequate telemarketing compliance systems, resulting in thousands of complaints about the telco's telemarketers calling people with numbers listed on the Do Not Call Register.

"While businesses are able to make telemarketing calls to their customers in some circumstances, they clearly need to respect any request by their customers that these calls stop," said ACMA chairman, Chris Chapman, in a statement.

Follow Tim Lohman on Twitter: @Tlohman

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Tags Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA)governmentACMAconvergence

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