ABA Board continues to Shrink

After the departure of David Flint, the ABA Board faces even greater upheaval, with almost half the members to be gone within two months.

First to go will be part time member, Ian Robertson, whose four year term expires today. He is Managing Partner of the Sydney office of law, firm, Holding Redlich, and an advisory board member of the Media and Telecommunications Policy Group at RMIT.

The only full time member, Michael Gordon-Smith, finishes up on 14 September.

The ABA and the Australian Communications Authority will be merged to establish a new media and communications regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

However, the ABA faces almost 12 months of further uncertainty and dwindling numbers. The ACMA will be established by 1 July 2005, subject to the passage of enabling legislation through Parliament.

The move follows similar agency restructures in the UK and US. Both the ABA and ACA favour the merger.

ACMA will be responsible for regulating telecommunications, broadcasting, radiocommunications and online content. Its creation “recognises the changing nature of the communications environment.”

New digital technologies are allowing previously distinct sectors to compete across increasingly convergent markets, using a range of different delivery platforms, which requires a more flexible regulator to be able to deal with convergence across traditional industry segment lines.

“In this environment, maintaining two separate regulators, both dealing with similar issues but focusing on different sectors of the communications industry, is neither practical nor effective,” says the Government.

The establishment of the ACMA will enable “a coordinated regulatory response to converging technologies and services and to the long term management of spectrum”.

As a single regulatory body, the ACMA will also be “better placed to respond to the outcomes of the statutory reviews of the digital television framework required in 2004 and 2005 under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992”

The establishment of the ACMA will not be accompanied by changes to the existing regulatory and spectrum planning frameworks for telecommunications and broadcasting.

The ACMA will maintain the existing offices of the ABA and ACA throughout Australia, although, over time, some functions might co-locate where practical.

The structure and functions of the new authority will be similar to the existing regulators, but will give the new entity the ability to regulate across convergent technologies.