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Divergent views on convergence

The government’s commissioned inquiry into convergence has a pretty broad brief. Has the government opened a can of worms?

The Convergence Review was set up to “examine the policy and regulatory frameworks that apply to the converged media and communications landscape in Australia”. In other words, how is the internet upsetting the traditional media and how do we regulate to ensure the best outcomes? Late last month, Australian Communications and Media Authority released a paper that highlighted how most legislative concepts have been broken by the impact of convergence.

This week the review committee released five detailed discussion papers, looking at market structure, regulation, spectrum, local content and community standards.

In this edition of Twisted Wire I ask Malcolm Long, one of the three members of the review committee, whether the result of the inquiry will be more regulation or less? He says the hope is for less. Would this mean the loosening of regulations on free-to-air broadcasters? Personally, I hope not, unless it is to reduce some of the protectionism that exists, such as control over new entrants. In fact, I suggest in the program that many broadcasters are making poor use of a public resource.

Chris Warren, federal secretary at the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, is adamant that the biggest issue the industry faces is the protection of Australian content. He says that TV networks are subject to dumping from overseas producers, and now our culture is getting crowded out by the noise on the internet.

So how do we protect it? One way, says Brian Fitzgerald, a professor at the school of law at QUT and a founder of creative commons licensing in Australia, is for a publicly funded repository of archived content. This content might be used not for passive consumption, but also for mashing-up new material — he points to the ABC Pool site of a great example of this happening already. We discuss whether taxpayer-funded broadcasters should ensure ongoing creative-commons-style licensing for all future content.

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