Govt merges ABA, ACA

Under new plans announced in the government's budget, the Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA) and the Australian Communications Authority (ACA) will be merged into one regulator.The newly formed entity will be known as the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) and will be responsible for regulating telecommunications, broadcasting, radiocommunications and online content as an answer to the changing nature of the communications environment.

Under new plans announced in the government's budget, the Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA) and the Australian Communications Authority (ACA) will be merged into one regulator.

The newly formed entity will be known as the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) and will be responsible for regulating telecommunications, broadcasting, radiocommunications and online content as an answer to the changing nature of the communications environment.

According to Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts Daryl Williams, new digital technologies are now increasingly convergent thus "maintaining two separate regulators, both dealing with similar issues but focusing on different sectors of the communications industry, is neither practical nor effective."

"The establishment of the ACMA will enable a coordinated regulatory response to converging technologies and services and to the long-term management of spectrum. As a single regulatory body, the ACMA will also be better placed to respond to the outcomes of the statutory reviews of the digital television framework required in 2004 and 2005 under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992."

Williams emphasised that "the establishment of the ACMA will not be accompanied by changes to the existing regulatory and spectrum planning frameworks for telecommunications and broadcasting."

He also added that "there will be no immediate savings from the new arrangement" as previously calculated by the Opposition.

"The distinct skill bases and functions required will not disappear after the merger and there will be no change to the underlying regulatory framework," Williams said.

Existing offices of the ABA and ACA will be maintained by the ACMA throughout Australia with some functions co-located where practical over a period of time.

The ACMA will be established by 1 July 2005, following approval by the Federal Parliament.

Also announced in the budget, National ICT Australia (NICTA) was rewarded with a AU$251 million budget over five years from 2006-07, including AU$125 million provided through the ARC's National Competitive Grants programme. The additional funding will bring the total funding for NICTA over the 10 years from 2001-02 to AU$380 million.

Under the government's new budget, the Building on IT Strengths (BITS) Incubators program will be extended from 2004-05 to 2007-08 with an additional AU$36 million, with a total funding of AU$122 million since 1999-2000.