Review calls for super watchdog with power to fine
The convergence review recommends the creation of a new "super regulator" that will effectively swallow up the Australian Communications and Media Authority. The Australian Press Council would remain a separate body. Photo: Simon O'Dwyer
THE broadcast media regulator will be subsumed into a new government-funded body as part of an overhaul of media regulation, under proposals to be considered by the government.
A key recommendation of the convergence review into the media, due to report on Monday, will be the creation of a ''super regulator'' that will effectively swallow the Australian Communications and Media Authority.
The new body will also incorporate other areas including that of the privacy commissioner and intellectual property rights. The Australian Press Council would remain a separate body.
The full powers and reach of the super regulator will be unveiled next week as part of the final report by a panel of three media executives who have been planning a road map for the media in the age of the internet.
A consultation period by the Minister for Communications, Stephen Conroy, is expected to follow the publication, sparking lobbying by various organisations and individuals to run the new government-funded body.
Yesterday the media authority went on the front foot, with its chairman, Chris Chapman, saying it was perfectly placed to become a super regulator, should the government chose.
Mr Chapman said that if the government adopted the recommendation, the authority's powers should be bolstered. ''We are already across most of those issues,'' he said.
''We've worked within those technical standards, we deal with those codes, we have very strong relationships with the stakeholders, and we have a growing confidence as to how to move in that space.
''And I think we've demonstrated in the last few years that we're capable of living in the current regulatory [space].''
The Press Council, which recently doubled its funding, would continue to sit outside the regulatory regime. The chairman of the council, Julian Disney, has argued the Press Council could do a better job than any other organisation in regulating newspapers and their online offerings.
In its submission to the convergence review Professor Disney raised the idea of a panel - headed by a judge - with powers to fine media outlets. This could provide the public with an avenue of redress before going to the courts.
Senator Conroy confirmed that this was one of the proposals from the convergence review.
The media authority, which has an annual budget of $111 million and employs 580 staff, already regulates telecommunications, TV and radio broadcasters and content on the internet. It has been lobbying for mid-tier powers that sit between taking media outlets to court for licence infringements and issuing them with a warning.