The government released a tender Saturday for executive search companies to submit proposals to compile a list of prospective chairs of the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), the body being formed from a merger of the Australian Communications Authority and the Australian Broadcasting Authority.
The list will go to the federal government, which has final say over the appointment.
The ACMA is slated to have the combined responsibilities of both the ABA and ACA, with its brief encompassing regulation of telecommunications, broadcasting, radiocommunications and online content.
The chair will, the federal government said, be an executive role, encompassing the duties of both chair and chief executive officer. The successful appointee will have a term of up to five years and may be reappointed, although the term of any board member cannot exceed 10 years. The board will comprise a chair, a deputy chair and between one and seven other members who will either be full or part time.
According to the tender documentation, the chair will report to the minister responsible for communications for the ACMA's annual operating budget of AU$70 million and collection of taxes and charges worth around AU$450 million per year.
"The formation of the ACMA is due in part to the convergence of communications technologies," the tender said. "It is therefore important that the chair has a sound understanding of relevant technological issues and their potential impact on the regulatory environment".
Unsurprisingly, the tender implies the appointee should be adept at managing the deep political sensitivities associated with ACMA's key areas of responsibility. The government is trying to navigate the political minefield of a sale of the remainder of Telstra amid ongoing concerns over bush services and competition, while the ABA's last full-time chairman, David Flint, stepped down amid conflict of interest concerns over letters of admiration he had sent to high-profile broadcaster Alan Jones. "The chair should ... have a sound understanding of the role of an independent regulator in the politically-sensitive areas of broadcasting and telecommunications," the tender said.
"There would also be an advantage in the chair having experience in broadcasting and/or telecommunications regulatory issues," it added.
The successful tenderer is expected to be selected by 15 February, with the process completed by 23 March.
The Minister responsible for the ACMA, Helen Coonan, recently moved to strengthen ties between the ACA and the ABA by appointing the acting chairpersons of each as associate members of the other authority. Acting ACA chair Bob Horton and acting ABA chair Lyn Maddock will see their appointments expire when the new ACMA structure kicks in from 1 July.