Australian Communications and Media Authority

Australian Communications and Media Authority

Australian Communications and Media Authority is an Australian government agency whose main roles are to regulate broadcasting, radiocommunications and telecommunications, and to represent Australian interests in international communications matters. It also has a role in regulating Internet content standards.

On 1 July 2005, the Australian Communications and Media Authority replaced two former government agencies — the Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA) and the Australian Communications Authority (ACA). The ACA in turn came into existence on 1 July 1997 as the merger of the Spectrum Management Agency (SMA) and AUSTEL .

Administratively ACMA is part of the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts (DCITA). It is an independent authority with a board of five members.

Powers and funding

It exercises powers under the "Broadcasting Services Act" 1992 (in relation to broadcasting) and the "Telecommunications Act" 1997, the "Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Service Standards) Act" 1999 and the "Radiocommunications Act" 1992 and other related legislation (in relation to telecommunications).

ACMA works with the communications industry to achieve active self-regulation by industry and companies, while ensuring compliance with licence conditions, codes and standards. The ACMA monitors the effect of regulations to ensure they are responsive to the community’s needs.

Though ACMA is funded through the federal budget, it also collects substantial revenue on behalf of the Commonwealth of Australia. Revenue is collected through telecommunications carrier and radiocommunications licence fees and charges, as well as through charges on telecommunications numbers. ACMA also collects revenue from price-based allocation of spectrum.

Main functions

In respect of telecommunications, the stated aims of the ACMA are to:

*Work to ensure quality communications services are available.
*Represent Australia in "international regulation of communications" (see International Telecommunications Union)
*"Manage access to the radiofrequency spectrum" through radiocommunications licensing
*Resolve competing demands for spectrum through price-based allocation methods
*Regulates use of the radio-frequency spectrum and helps in minimising radiocommunications interference
*"License" telecommunications carriers and ensure compliance with licence conditions and carriage service provider rules
*Regulate industry compliance with mandatory "standards" and voluntary "codes of practice"
*Administer legislative provisions relating to powers and immunities of carriers in constructing telecommunications facilities
*Monitor compliance with "consumer safeguards" and service guarantees
*Administer universal service initiatives
*"Report" and inform the Australian community about communications regulation and industry performance
*Maintain and administer the Telecommunications Numbering Plan (for telephones)
*"Inform industry and consumers" about communications regulation

In respect of broadcasting:

*develops licence area plans, and issuing and renewing licences for television and radio broadcasting in a range of licence classes including commercial, community, subscription, datacasting and narrowcasting;
*administers the ownership and control rules for broadcasting services
*oversees program content by investigating complaints about breaches of industry codes of practice, as well as complaints about the national broadcasters (Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the Special Broadcasting Service)
*administers the introduction of digital TV and radio

Internet Censorship and Criticisms

Since January 2000, internet content considered offensive or illegal has been subject to a statutory scheme administered by ACMA.

Established under Schedule 5 to the Broadcasting Services Act 1992, the online content scheme evolved from a tradition of Australian content regulation in broadcasting and other entertainment media. This tradition embodies the principle that – while adults should be free to see, hear and read what they want – children should be protected from material that may be unsuitable for (or harmful to) them, and everyone should be protected from material that is highly offensive.

The online content scheme seeks to achieve these objectives by a number of means such as complaint investigation processes, government and industry collaboration, and community awareness and empowerment. While administration of the scheme is the responsibility of ACMA, the principle of ‘co-regulation’ underpinning the scheme reflects parliament’s intention that government, industry and the community each plays a role in managing internet safety issues in Australia.

Some people strongly disagree with this approach. They say the Australian constitution does not clearly provide either the states or the federal government power to censor online content, so internet censorship in Australia is typically an amalgam of various plans, laws, acts and policies. The regulator has been criticised for its role in examining internet censorship in Australia and how it is enabled and might further be enabled [http://www.efa.org.au/Issues/Censor/censhistory.html A Brief History of Internet Regulatory Proposals/Activity in Australia, 1994-2000 ] ] . Particular criticism has been leveled at the regulator's technical understanding of what is involved overall in internet regulation and censorship. [http://www.efa.org.au/Issues/Censor/cens1.html Internet Censorship Laws in Australia ] ] .

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ACMA has about 550 staff in offices across Australia. It has central offices in Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne, and regional offices and operations centres around Australia.

See also

*Australian Commercial Television Code of Practice

External links

* [http://www.acma.gov.au/ Australian Communications and Media Authority]
* [http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,22304224-2,00.html ACMA's new $84m filter cracked in 30 minutes]

References


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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