Tuesday, 13 August 2019 22:50

Regulatory imbalance between traditional media, digital platforms says ACCC chief Featured

By
Rod Sims, ACCC chairman Rod Sims, ACCC chairman

The head of Australia’s competition regulatory authority, Rod Sims, says disruption and dislocation in media markets - and a regulatory imbalance between traditional media and digital platforms - should concern all Australians.

Speaking at the Melbourne Press Club on Tuesday, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Chair was reflecting on the recommendations in the final report of the ACCC’s Digital Platforms Inquiry released last month, cautioning that “while digital innovations have the potential to transform societies for the better, there are also forms of innovation that can be harmful”.

A number of the Inquiry’s 23 recommendations were directly focused on media and journalism, including the establishment of a new platform-neutral regulatory framework to ensure effective and consistent regulatory oversight of all entities involved in content production or delivery in Australia.

“There is an imbalance in the current regulatory treatment of content delivered via traditional broadcasting compared to content delivered via digital platforms, and that needs to be addressed,” Sims said.

“We have also recommended an enforceable bargaining code administered by the Australian Communications and Media Authority to ensure that media businesses are treated fairly, reasonably and transparently by the large digital platforms.

“This vital code will cover sharing of data, understanding elements of algorithm outcomes, not inappropriately impeding monetisation and overall value sharing."

Sims said the codes the ACCC have recommended to government must be “binding, legally enforceable and with meaningful penalties for breaching them”.

Sims pointed out that while the digital platforms offer benefits with their ‘free’ services, and most users now have some understanding of how their data is treated, the Inquiry found a substantial disconnect between how consumers think their data is used, and how it is actually used.

“Few consumers are fully informed of, or can effectively control, how their data is collected, used and shared by digital platforms when they sign up for or use their services,” Sims observed.

“Trust is at the heart of the digital economy. It is important that there is transparency over the collection and use of data so consumers can exercise real choices and have meaningful control over their data.

“It is very important to recognise the role digital platforms perform in our individual and collective lives, and for governments and us all to be proactive in anticipating challenges and problems.”

“Thoughtful regulatory frameworks can help us harness the benefits of innovation while protecting society from its potential harms.”

“There is no single silver bullet, but we see the recommendations in this report as the start of a journey that has a long way to go.”


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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham - retired in 2020. He is a 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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