The Federal Government has brought forward plans to overhaul Australia's media laws to accommodate its $43 billion plan to give 90 per cent of the population access to high speed broadband.
As reported in The Australian, Federal Communications Minister Stephen Conroy told technology industry representatives that many media regulations would not survive construction of the national broadband network. "We're very conscious that the existing regulatory framework that exists - particularly in the media sector - is going to struggle to survive in a truly digitalised world." He said, "Convergence has happened. The broadband network is going to radically reshape the media sector."
Senator Conroy said he was particularly concerned that internet television services made possible by the future high speed broadband connections known as IPTV would render the rules governing broadcast audience reach obsolete.
Cross media ownership laws would also be up for discussion as more print media operators start taking advantage of IPTV by streaming videos and news bulletins online.
Professor Michael Fraser, director of the Communications Law Centre at UTS told The Australian the government faced a tough balancing act retaining local media diversity while ensuring media companies stayed large enough to survive as broadband globalised the industry. "You've got to make sure that there is competition among the Australian media on the one hand, by not allowing a monopoly situation. But on the other hand, you've got to make sure that they are big enough to survive. So you have to balance diversity against size," He said.
Professor Fraser rejected arguments that they new forms of media arising from the growth of the internet such as blogs and other forms of social media could inject sufficient quality journalism to overcome concerns about diminishing diversity.
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