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Broadcast watchdog faces chop

Date

Julian Lee and Bianca Hall

ACMA Chairman Chris Chapman.

ACMA Chairman Chris Chapman.

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 federal government.

A key recommendation of the convergence review of the media, which is due to report on Monday, will be the creation of a new ''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.

Under the recommendations, the Press Council would remain a separate body.

The full powers and reach of the super regulator will be revealed next week as part of the final report by a panel of three media executives who have been planning a strategy for the media in the age of the internet.

A consultation period lasting months is expected to follow, sparking lobbying by organisations and individuals to run the new government-funded body.

Australian Communications and Media Authority chairman Chris Chapman said yesterday his organisation was perfectly placed to become a super regulator.

Mr Chapman said if the government adopted the recommendation in its response to the report, the ACMA's powers should be bolstered. ''We are already across most of those issues; 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.''

The press self-regulator, the Australian Press Council, which recently doubled its funding, would continue to sit outside the regulatory regime. Its chairman, Professor Julian Disney, has argued the Press Council could do a better job than any other organisation in regulating newspapers and their online offerings.

In a 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.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy confirmed that one of the proposals put to the government by the convergence review was a new regulatory body or panel headed by a former judge that could fine and sanction media outlets.

The ACMA, 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.

The media regulator has been labelled toothless for its perceived failure to bring to book radio personalities such as Kyle Sandilands and Alan Jones.

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