ACMA makes case to become Australia’s digital platforms regulator

The Australian Communications and Media Authority has made a grab to become the main regulator of digital platforms and online content in Australia.

In its response to the ACCC’s preliminary report on digital platforms, the regulator said it strongly supported most of the proposed recommendations and said the review showed a clear clear case for bringing the global giants under Australia’s regulatory umbrella.

Chair of ACMA, Nerida O’Loughlin: “The ACCC has made a clear case for bringing digital platforms into the regulatory framework for content delivery.

Writing in its submission, ACMA stated: “Creating a separate regulator for digital platforms would appear inefficient and defeat the purpose of the proposed regulatory reform—to have a consistent approach to the regulation of the production and distribution of content in Australia.”

The media regulator went on to argue it would be best placed to monitor digital platforms’ behaviour in advertising and news, rather than a new agency suggested by the ACCC.

ACMA also disagreed the ACCC’s preliminary report focus on creating separate rules and regulators specifically aimed at the digital platforms, instead calling for any new legislative framework to be based around a ‘stack’ model with regulations applying across the different layers.

The current ‘vertical’ focus applies different rules to broadcasters, publishers and online services, the ACMA also pointed out.

ACMA also pointed out its role in industry-specific advertising codes of conduct, including tobacco, alcohol, gambling and therapeutic goods and pointed out the agency was best placed to work with international counterparts as part of global response to regulating the digital platforms.

Nerida O’Loughlin, chair of ACMA, said the agency sees the need to bring Facebook and Google under local regulation as being “both necessary and urgent.”

“We propose that a new regulatory framework should be developed that is: principles-based, outcome focused and based on a communications stack model and that allows for different regulatory approaches,” O’Loughlin said.

“We also consider that a single regulatory framework for content delivered across any platform should have oversight by a single content regulator, in consultation with local and international regulators. With responsibility for a wide range of regulation of traditional media and increasingly of online platforms, the ACMA is best placed to take on the role of single content regulator.

“We will, of course, work closely with the ACCC and other relevant agencies in any new regulatory role—as not all activities of digital platforms would fall under the remit of the ACMA, including those overseen by the Office of the eSafety Commissioner.

“Our full response to the report focuses on implementation and recognises that the broader policy and regulatory issues raised in the report require careful consideration by government.

“We are committed to working collaboratively to ensure that any reform of the regulatory framework works for government, industry and most importantly, the community.”

The regulator also said it is intending to undertake its own research into various aspects of news content and distribution with a focus on the regulation of news specifically as it relates to the ACMA’s current remit across all platforms.


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