Media policy: Responding to rapid change

Panellists: Franco Papandrea (News & Media Research Centre), Rod Tiffen (University of Sydney), Richard Windeyer (Department of Communications & the Arts), Derek Wilding (University of Technology Sydney).

The current media policy and regulatory regime of strict control of entry to the industry and licensing of individual operators to supply specifically defined services over distinct delivery platforms has become increasingly ineffective and outdated.  As noted by the ACMA, because of rapid convergence of media markets and technology, many of the existing regime’s underlying concepts are broken.  Consequently, the whole framework is under serious risk of collapse and the adoption of a new approach to media policy and regulation is becoming increasingly urgent.

The problems are well known and some guidance on what needs to be done is already available.  The recent Convergence review (2012), for example, concluded that while many of the existing regulatory instruments are no longer justified, some measures related to media ownership, media content standards and production and distribution of Australian and local content continued to be necessary.  Views on the need or level of control required, or on the instruments that should be adopted, however, vary.

Irrespective of its scope, the necessary fundamental reform is unlikely to occur without political leadership and preparedness to cast aside politically expedient cosy deals with vested interests.  Ad-hoc action to resolve pressing problems will only provide temporary respite from the danger of eventual collapse of the current regime.  And to avoid undue disruption, the whole process of transition to a new innovative regime requires comprehensive planning and careful management.

The aim of the panel is to stimulate discussion on both a general approach to media policy and regulation appropriate to the current environment of rapid technological change and on sustainable instruments for the promotion of the public interest in areas where intervention is likely to be necessary.  After introductory statements by the panellists, a Q&A format will be used to facilitate interaction between the panellists and the audience on the extent to which regulatory intervention is appropriate and on the likely sustainability of related instruments.

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