Over regulation a potential issue for radio industry

This week’s announcement about the tightening of regulations for mobile phone content is an indicator of tightening rules for all communications technologies. It sends a warning for radio broadcasters to keep their house in order, otherwise the spotlight might fall on radio as it has on mobile phones, internet content and other converging technologies.

The trend towards regulation in many areas of society is increasing, and the number of agencies and regulatory bodies which think they have a right to introduce rules about what is broadcast on radio is increasing. Although well-meaning, it may not be the best way to ensure good corporate citizenship in the long term.

In this latest move, the Australian Communications Authority (ACA) will put in place new measures to protect mobile phone users from offensive content and to restrict access to adult services available on premium mobile services.

These new measures are aimed at “[making] access to the Internet and mobile communications services safer and more enjoyable for all Australians, particularly children.”

If mobile phones contain radio receivers, question arise such as: Could a rule like this affect radio content? Will this affect digital radio text content?

The ACA will regulate access to content provided on new premium services delivered over mobile phones, putting in place access controls for adult content delivered on the new premium rate 19x range and on proprietary networks operated by carriers. These controls will restrict access by children to adult content.

The access controls will cover SMS or text content which is of an adult nature, as well as MMS and other audiovisual content classified MA or R. Content which is classified X or which is refused classification will be prohibited on new premium services.

While audiovisual services delivered to these sorts of convergent devices are not yet widely used in Australia, the Government is taking a proactive approach to protecting the interests of consumers, especially children.

DCITA will issue a discussion paper shortly on the topic and invite submissions from stakeholders.

With the new ACMA Super Regulator on the horizon there is more potential than ever for over-regulation in areas such as content classification. The radio industry will need to be vigilant about how these trends develop.