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Modernising the Australian Communications and Media Authority

The Turnbull Government has announced its response to the review of the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). The review was completed by the Department of Communications and the Arts and supported by a reference group of Australian and international communications and regulatory experts.

The review found the ACMA has generally performed its regulatory role efficiently and well over the last ten years.

However, the review also found that reform is needed to ensure the ACMA can respond effectively to the challenges of the future communications environment. Key recommendations of the review seek to enhance the ACMA's stakeholder engagement, decision-making, governance and accountability.

Following detailed consideration of the Final Review Report, which benefitted from stakeholder feedback, the Government supports or supports-in-principle all 27 of the recommendations of the review.Key reforms will redesign the governance arrangements for the regulator and provide for greater transparency,  accountability  and responsiveness of the regulator's day-to-day and strategic activities. Implementation of these changes is already underway.

A restructured governance model will provide for a minimum of five full-time members including the Chair and Deputy Chair, along with clear skill-set and expertise requirements. This will ensure that the ACMA is equipped for the complex task of regulating a dynamic and increasingly integrated communications  sector.  Part-time members are still able to be appointed under this arrangement.

The Government will also strengthen the Deputy Chair position to take on the function of the ACMA's Chief Executive Officer (CEO) with primary carriage of day-to-day management and operational issues. This will allow the Chair more time to focus on strategy, stakeholder management and decision making.

The Government will now commence the process to recruit a permanent Chair. The Government also will seek to fill the remaining positions and give effect to the restructured governance model for the ACMA following recruitment of the Chair.

A Ministerial Statement of Expectations will address issues such as transparency, accountability and the nature of the relationship between the ACMA, the Government and industry operators. Providing the ACMA with a clearer description of performance expectations of its regulatory role will support better  outcomes  for industry and consumers. Regulator principles will also be incorporated in the Statement to provide guidance to the ACMA on how it should approach its regulatory role.

The Government wishes to thank all participants for their contribution to the review.

The final report and further detail of the Government's response can be found at: www.communications.gov.au/acma-review-final-report

Australian Government response to the review of the Australian Communications and Media Authority – May 2017

Rec #                   Recommendation                   Government's position                  
1 That the Australian Communications and Media Authority’s (ACMA) remit cover all the layers of the communications market, including infrastructure, transport, devices, content and applications. Supported
2 That the ACMA’s cybersecurity programs, where appropriate, be transferred, along with staff and funding to the Attorney‑General’s Department (AGD). Supported
3 That the Bureau of Communications and Arts Research assume the lead in taking forward research about the emerging environment and market trends, with the ACMA’s regulatory research program focusing on supporting the effectiveness of regulatory functions and harms that are affecting businesses and consumers. Supported
4 That the Department of Communications and the Arts be responsible for head of delegation roles to key international policy‑setting forums, including the World Radiocommunications Conference, and that clear guidance and negotiating parameters be provided by the Department to heads of delegation. Supported
5 That further work be undertaken to determine whether it may be more efficient for another body, such as the Australian Taxation Office, to undertake the revenue collection functions currently performed by the ACMA. Supported

That, within the next 12 months, the ACMA examine whether some or all of the following functions can be referred to industry for self‑regulation, in consultation with relevant industry bodies:                

  • Technical Standards                    
  • Integrated Public Number Database (IPND)                    
  • Do Not Call Register (DNCR)                    
  • Action on unsolicited communications, including Spam.                    

The ACMA regularly explore further opportunities for self‑regulation in consultation with industry.                

7 That the Department will undertake further work on the potential to expand the ACMA’s remit to include the functions of the Classification Board and Classification Review Board Scheme. Supported

That the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 (IG Act) be amended to require the ACMA to:                

  • Handle all complaints relating to interactive gambling services and advertisements                    
  • Conduct the same investigation process irrespective of whether the content is hosted in Australia or overseas                    
  • Enforce civil penalties for breaches of the Act.                    
9 That the current institutional arrangements for economic regulation of the communications sector be retained. Supported
10 That cross‑appointment arrangements between the ACMA and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) be strengthened in order to benefit both ACMA and ACCC decision‑making. Supported
11 That the current institutional arrangements for communications consumer protections be retained. Supported
12 That as a priority as future reform is undertaken, the Government provide the ACMA with a clear set of overarching policy objectives to guide its decision-making. Supported
13 That the commission model of decision-making be retained. Supported
14 That the skill set to be collectively covered by Authority members be outlined in legislation to ensure an appropriate and diverse mix of abilities to respond to the future needs of the ACMA. Supported
15 That all members of the Authority be appointed on a full‑time basis and that the Authority consist of a Chair, a Deputy Chair and at least three other full‑time members.

Supported in principle (Government supports full-time Chair, full-time Deputy Chair, three full-time members while retaining flexibility to appoint additional members on a part-time basis)                

16 That the existing arrangements are maintained where the Chair is the Accountable Authority with an ability to delegate powers, duties and functions, to the extent permitted by the PGPA Act, to a Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Supported
17 That provision be made in the ACMA Act for the Authority to establish sub‑boards consisting of experts who could provide advice to the Authority or a Division of the Authority on specific areas of activity. The Chair of any such sub‑boards be a member of the Authority but not be the Chair of the Authority. Supported

Legislate the following four regulator principles in the ACMA’s enabling legislation, proposed draft:                

  • The ACMA have regard to the importance of promoting competition, innovation and efficient investment                    
  • The ACMA should apply a risk-based approach to regulation, compliance and enforcement activities. Regulatory intervention should be targeted, evidence-based and commensurate with risk                    
  • The ACMA should implement continuous review of regulation to reduce burden and streamline approaches where the benefits exceed the costs                    
  • The ACMA should be timely and transparent in its actions and clearly indicate the priorities and objectives which inform its decision-making to regulated entities and the broader public.                    

Supported in principle (rather than legislation, action in Minister’s Statement of Expectations to ACMA)                

19 That the Minister provide the ACMA with an annual Statement of Expectations and the ACMA respond by publishing a Statement of Intent outlining how it will seek to deliver on the Government’s expectations. Supported
20 That the Minister provide the ACCC with an annual Statement of Expectations and the ACCC respond by publishing a Statement of Intent outlining how it will seek to deliver on the Government’s expectations. Supported
21 That timeliness of decision‑making be established as a key area of focus and accountability for future cycles of the ACMA’s regulator performance framework and Government consider legislative amendment to support more timely decision-making, where necessary. Supported
22 That the ACMA publish information on the steps it takes to ensure stakeholders have a clear understanding of the relationship between its actions and its compliance and enforcement policy. Supported
23 That the ACMA publish a report to the Minister every two years on initiatives undertaken to identify and reduce regulatory burden on industry and individuals. Supported
24 That the ACMA produce a public report on steps taken to improve the transparency and consistency of its decision-making processes, and that implementation and stakeholder satisfaction be independently assessed by the end of 2017. Supported
25 That it would be timely to review the policy objectives of revenue collection from the communications sector and evaluate whether new business models and OTT services are contributing appropriately. Supported
26 That the ACMA should further analyse its cost base, in light of the proposed function changes, to ensure it is efficiently delivering on its responsibilities and minimising costs to industry. Supported
27 To enable the communications sector to reach its full potential as an enabler of innovation and productivity, the Government commence a coordinated program of regulatory reform to establish a contemporary communications regulatory framework. Supported