Friday, 27 March 2020 13:57

ACMA clears the decks to allow comms, media sectors to prioritise work during COVID-19 crisis Featured

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The telecommunications regulator ACMA says it is reviewing and adjusting its work programs so the communications and media sectors can prioritise their business-critical functions and continue communicating during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Australian Media and Communications Authority (ACMA) has announced a series of industry measures it has introduced since the outbreak and says the communications and media sectors are playing a “critical role in enabling Australian consumers, businesses and governments to communicate during the COVID-19 pandemic”.

In response to the pandemic, the ACMA says it “understands” that it needs to continually review and adjust its work program to ensure these sectors can prioritise their business-critical functions.

“We will also be reconsidering reporting requirements and timeframes for responses to statutory notices to ensure that affected regulated entities can focus on maintaining their services,” the ACMA says in a statement issued on Friday.

“The ACMA is responsible for protecting Australian industry, consumers and audiences in areas that remain vital at this time—such as the accuracy of news, interference management and the availability of support for consumers who may be experiencing financial hardship or may otherwise be vulnerable.

“However, the ACMA also recognises that the COVID-19 pandemic may create real difficulties for organisations to comply with their regulatory responsibilities, particularly in the short to medium term. This may be due to factors beyond their control, including the inability to access products and services from suppliers.

“Where warranted, the ACMA will consider regulatory forbearance on a case-by-case basis. Any forbearance considered will be balanced against the potential risk of consumer harm, the seriousness of any breach of law, efforts of organisations to comply and all other relevant considerations.

“We are committed to engaging with and working constructively and pragmatically with our stakeholders so we can remain informed of issues and challenges. We are receiving multiple requests from licensees/regulated entities for specific assistance and we are actively considering their requests. We will continue to provide updates on our website about further decisions as they are made.

The ACMA also notes it has already:

  • delayed consultation processes for non-urgent matters such as the review of the Radiocommunications Act prohibitions/exemptions framework
  • suspended consultation on proposed revisions to NBN consumer experience rules
  • extended the time for submissions to the Spectrum Pricing Review
  • suspended planned investigations into Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code compliance attestation rules
  • implemented deferral or payment by instalment arrangements for apparatus licence renewals
  • suspended our work in relation to measurement of media diversity and local news under our News Project.

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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