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Senate Committee calls for more 'pro-consumer' regulation of media and telecommunications.



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DEMOCRATS

MEDIA 05/106

THURSDAY, 10 FEBRUARY 2005

SENATOR JOHN CHERRY AUSTRALIAN DEMOCRATS COMMUNICATIONS SPOKESPERSON

Senate Committee calls for more 'pro-consumer' regulation of media and telecommunications A Senate Committee report tabled today has called for the new regulator formed from the merger of the Australian Communications Authority and the Australian Broadcasting Authority to be more aggressively 'pro-consumer' and to rely less on self-regulation by industry.

Democrats Communications spokesperson and Chair of the Senate Environment and Communications References Committee Senator John Cherry, said the Government was missing an important opportunity in not looking to ensure that the new regulator - the Australian Communications and Media Authority - had more powers than the existing regulators.

"While the ABA and the ACA have handled technical issues quite well, they have not been responsive enough to the needs of consumers and the need to take on the big industry players to achieve better consumer outcomes," Senator Cherry said.

"The ACMA is being modelled on the new super communications regulator OFCOM in the UK, but has not been given the same scope of powers and responsibilities of OFCOM to achieve better outcomes for consumers.

"The self-regulatory light touch has allowed Telstra to dominate and allowed commercial broadcasters to get away with lowering standards, and non-responsiveness to complaints," he said.

The Committee's 18 recommendations were endorsed in full by Labor and Democrats members; Government members endorsed in full or in principle 11 of the 18 recommendations.

Senator Cherry said the strong support shown by all parties in the committee for a more pro-consumer approach to the regulation of communications sent a strong message to the Minister that the Government needed to do better on the regulation of Telstra and the media.

"The new regulator needs the powers and a clear mandate from Parliament that the interests of consumers must come first in communications, not the interests of industry," he said.

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DEMOCRATS MEDIA

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The recommendations of the committee include:

- reducing the emphasis on industry self-regulation in the Telecommunications Act and the Broadcasting Services Act and focusing more on consumer protection and promotion of competition;

- a comprehensive strategic review of the entire regulatory framework by ACMA over the next two years, modelled on the wide-ranging inquiry currently being undertaken by OFCOM in the UK;

- a closer working relationship between ACMA and the ACCC, with additional resources to the ACCC, to ensure that the overlap between technical and competition issues is understood and addressed;

- the establishment of a "Content Board" based on the UK model to give the community more say in the development of broadcasting standards;

- the broadening of the scope of the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman to cover complaints right across the communications industry;

- a Productivity Commission review of the possible structural separation of Telstra to look at the structural impediments to competition in telecommunications.

Media contact: Pam Hose 0408 752 750

DEMOCRATS MEDIA

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NETWORK RELIABILITY FRAMEWORK

SERVICES RECORDING FAULTS

Services recording faults

(% monthly)

2004

(no. in brackets*)

2003

(no. in brackets*)

December 1.08% (125,900) 0.93% (108,400)

November 0.99% (115,400) 0.86% (100,300)

October 0.91% (106,100) 0.83% (96,800)

September 0.83% (96,800) 0.79% (92,100)

(* based on estimate of 11.66 million services)

(Source: Network Reliability Framework data from Telstra)