Convergence Review Terms of Reference
Over the last 15 years, the way that people get information, enjoy entertainment, stay in touch, acquire goods and services, work, learn, travel, and manage their time has undergone unprecedented change.
At the heart of this change have been developments in communications and media technologies—telecommunications, radio, television and the internet.
All these technologies provide services which underpin the functioning of our democratic society—enabling communications between individuals and groups, and providing content services that inform, educate and entertain audiences, citizens and consumers.
Historically separate, these technologies are increasingly performing similar tasks, and the content delivery and communications services they offer are becoming more analogous. The development of digital broadcasting, data compression and internet-based technologies, coupled with improved infrastructure capability, means that content and services that were previously constrained to one delivery channel can now be delivered over many different platforms.
This phenomenon is known as convergence.
On one hand, convergence allows a range of different content to be delivered over a common network—typically the internet. On the other, the provision of content via the internet to a wide range of end user devices brings about a fragmentation of audiences as individuals tailor their media consumption habits to suit personal preferences and circumstances.
At the same time, the globalising effect of the internet is profound and rapid, and has challenged regulatory boundaries.
New content services channelled through internet service providers and across jurisdictional borders are challenging traditional media business models and forcing governments all over the world to reconsider the assumptions behind existing legislation and regulatory frameworks.
While convergence as a concept has existed for years, the Australian Government's policies and actions—particularly in creating the National Broadband Network, pursuing the switch to digital-only television and the subsequent release of spectrum for new wireless communications technologies—have rapidly accelerated the arrival of the convergent media age in Australia.
As a result, Australia's media and communications regulations are quickly becoming outdated.
Regulatory settings are necessary to foster competition, to encourage diversity, and to protect Australian stories, community values and citizens' rights. Yet regulation also must be dynamic enough to support creativity in new digital services, and flexible enough to deal with rapidly changing technologies for the delivery of content.
The Australian Government intends to fundamentally review the policy and regulatory frameworks that apply to the converged media and communications landscape in Australia.
The government wants to make sure that the policy framework upon which Australia's industry structures and regulation are built is adequately designed for the convergent age and does not impede continued technological change and innovation. At the same time, the framework must ensure the ongoing protection of Australian content and cultural values, the adequate reflection of community standards and expectations and the safeguarding of privacy and other citizens' rights.
The government recognises that any discussion of the production and distribution of Australian content raises issues of copyright in the digital age. The Review Committee may offer views on copyright and the ongoing protection of content in a converged environment, noting that the Attorney-General will ultimately determine these matters.
The Convergence Review
The Convergence Review Committee
A committee of independent experts (the Committee), appointed by the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy and supported by a dedicated secretariat within the Minister's department, will conduct the Convergence Review (the review).
The Committee is to review the operation of media and communications regulation in Australia and assess its effectiveness in achieving appropriate policy objectives for the convergent era. The Committee shall have regard to legislative measures, including but not limited to those contained in the Broadcasting Services Act 1992, the Radiocommunications Act 1992 and the Telecommunications Act 1997, particularly as they relate to the regulation of content and converging content delivery platforms.
The Committee shall also have regard to the structure of the broadcasting, media and communications industries in Australia, to the role of the regulator (the Australian Communications and Media Authority) and to the views and expectations of the Australian public.
In undertaking the Convergence Review as set out in the Terms of Reference below, the Committee is to have regard to other government review processes that address related issues, including the National Classification Review being undertaken by the Australian Law Reform Commission, with a view to achieving consistency in approach.
The Committee will deliver its final report to the government in the first quarter of 2012.
Convergence Review—Terms of Reference
- In light of convergence, the Committee is to review the current policy framework for the production and delivery of media content and communications services. The Committee is to:
- develop advice for the government on the appropriate policy framework for a converged environment;
- advise on ways of achieving it, including implementation options and timeframes where appropriate; and
- advise on the potential impact of reform options on industry, consumers and the community.
- In doing so, the Committee shall have regard to all legislation and regulatory frameworks relevant to these terms of reference and, where necessary, advise the government on issues outside the purview of the Minister's portfolio responsibilities.
- In undertaking 1) above, the Committee is to inquire into and advise on the following matters.
- whether the existing regulatory objectives remain appropriate in a converging environment; and
- if so, whether the regulatory approach embodied in the current policy framework remains the most effective and efficient, and
- in light of a) and b) above, the Committee's preferred alternative regulatory or non-regulatory measures to form a new framework.
- In light of its views on a preferred policy framework for a converged environment the Committee is to advise on the principles that will underpin any new framework.
- Without limiting its scope, in conducting the review the Committee is to take into account the following policy parameters:
- the development and maintenance of a diverse, innovative, efficient and effective communications and media market that operates within an appropriately competitive environment and in the best interest of the Australian public;
- ensuring the ongoing production and distribution of local and Australian content that reflects and contributes to the development of national and cultural identity;
- the impact of policy settings on industry and government revenue;
- appropriate ways to treat content, and the services and applications used to deliver content, which are cross-border in nature;
- appropriate policy settings to:
- ensure the adequate reflection of community standards and the views and expectations of the Australian public; and
- maximise transparency, choice and access for consumers to the broadest range of content across platforms, and services used to deliver content;
- the appropriate processes by which to manage spectrum allocation; and
- international responses to convergence, and Australia's international commitments.