Comms regulator to test powers

The Australian Communications and Media Authority, the newly formed super-regulator, will seek to push the boundaries of its powers, deputy chair Lyn Maddock said."We will, I expect, be testing the range of the regulatory powers that we have," Maddock told a conference on mobile telephony in Sydney on Wednesday.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority, the newly formed super-regulator, will seek to push the boundaries of its powers, deputy chair Lyn Maddock said.

"We will, I expect, be testing the range of the regulatory powers that we have," Maddock told a conference on mobile telephony in Sydney on Wednesday. Maddock is temporarily in charge as the government has yet to appoint a permanent chair.

The 10-week old ACMA was created when the Australian Broadcasting Authority merged with the Australian Communications Authority. It is responsible for the regulation of broadcasting, radio communications, telecommunications and online content.

Maddock said ACMA is likely to request voluntary undertakings from -- or make sterner warnings to -- companies that violate the law. However, she said some lateral thinking could help make its task easier.

"I expect that we would attempt to use those regulatory powers in a creative way so that we can influence the environment rather than mandating it," Maddock said.

She said the organisation had decided to proceed as a fully-fledged regulator since its inception on July 1, despite being leaderless.

"We wouldn't be allowing the body to drift while we were awaiting the new chair," she said. "Given the timing, that seems like a very wise decision."

Other activities on ACMA's recently-completed task list included cuddling up to its sister regulator, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). The two do not overlap in their areas of responsibility.

"We've developed a close and ongoing relationship with the ACCC," said Maddock. "This was one of the first very high-priority things we did in the first 10 weeks of our existence."

Maddock also said the regulatory body had restructured its staffing to provide better service to its members.

"We expect that we'll have fewer positions devoted to the routine application of pre-determined responses to any situation," she said, adding: "There will be a greater need in this environment for higher-level analysts who can craft responses to particular situations."

As part of the merger, ACMA has created a policy committee working between the disparate telecommunications and broadcasting spaces, to gain "commonalities in policy and regulatory approach".

The organisation hopes to have an overall strategic plan in place by October that will govern its future.