Divergent views on convergence

Divergent views on convergence

Summary: The government's commissioned inquiry into convergence has a pretty broad brief. Has the government opened a can of worms?


The government's commissioned inquiry into convergence has a pretty broad brief. Has the government opened a can of worms?

The Convergence Review was set up to "examine the policy and regulatory frameworks that apply to the converged media and communications landscape in Australia". In other words, how is the internet upsetting the traditional media and how do we regulate to ensure the best outcomes? Late last month, Australian Communications and Media Authority released a paper that highlighted how most legislative concepts have been broken by the impact of convergence.

This week the review committee released five detailed discussion papers, looking at market structure, regulation, spectrum, local content and community standards.

In this edition of Twisted Wire I ask Malcolm Long, one of the three members of the review committee, whether the result of the inquiry will be more regulation or less? He says the hope is for less. Would this mean the loosening of regulations on free-to-air broadcasters? Personally, I hope not, unless it is to reduce some of the protectionism that exists, such as control over new entrants. In fact, I suggest in the program that many broadcasters are making poor use of a public resource.

Chris Warren, federal secretary at the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, is adamant that the biggest issue the industry faces is the protection of Australian content. He says that TV networks are subject to dumping from overseas producers, and now our culture is getting crowded out by the noise on the internet.

So how do we protect it? One way, says Brian Fitzgerald, a professor at the school of law at QUT and a founder of creative commons licensing in Australia, is for a publicly funded repository of archived content. This content might be used not for passive consumption, but also for mashing-up new material — he points to the ABC Pool site of a great example of this happening already. We discuss whether taxpayer-funded broadcasters should ensure ongoing creative-commons-style licensing for all future content.

This is a huge discussion and we only scratch the surface in this half hour. We'll certainly revisit it, so please add your comments with a phone message on the feedback line: 02 9304 5198

Running time: 31 minutes 40 seconds

Twisted Wire fans: next week, Phil Dobbie will have an exclusive interview with Mike Quigley, CEO of NBN Co. And we'd like you to be a part of that interview. Well, sort of. If you'd like to submit questions for Phil to ask, send them to ZDNet Australia. Questions must be received by midnight, Monday, 26 September. Thank you!

Topics: Government, Government AU, Tech Industry


Phil Dobbie has a wealth of radio and business experience. He started his career in commercial radio in the UK and, since coming to Australia in 1991, has held senior marketing and management roles with Telstra, OzEmail, the British Tourist Authority and other telecommunications, media, travel and advertising businesses.

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  • Interesting quote of yours, Phil: "In fact, I suggest in the program that many broadcasters are making poor use of a public resource."

    That's a slippery slope you're on, because one person's "poor use" can be another person's preference. With the known desire of the minister to impose secret government censorship, comments about "poor use of a public resource" could be quickly reinterpreted to imply support for official media control and direction.

    Are there parts of the media that I think are a waste of space? Yes. So I don't access them. But I am strongly against giving the govt the power to ban or inhibit them because, for example, they might have been critical of the govt.
  • In the program I specifically refer to uses such as streaming music only on digital radio spectrum, which is readily available on the Internet. I suggest the public resource should maintain regulations around local content, which broadcasters have managed to avoid on their multiple digital TV streams. I also raised the question of balance - and said Alan Jones is entitled to his views, so long as spectrum is opened up for new entrants. I think those with access to the public spectrum have more of a responsibility than for media providers on the Internet because they are using a public resource.
  • Phil,

    A convergence review, although far more technical, was conducted about 11 years ago. It was a great paper - and I think a "David ? Kennedy" was one of the authors. I am sure with your resources you could find it if you looked for it.

    I have lived under a regime where there were "arbiters" of what the public could listen to/ watch. It degenerated insidiously over the years into pure government censorship. At the very worst let the country set some sort of moral bar or standard and adhere to that. Even looking at issues such as truth can get troublesome. As for Australian culture – I have yet to see some locally produced program that does not glorify an aspect to the point of it being unrecognisably nauseating.