ACMA told to keep Internet content regulation to a minimum

ACMA told to keep Internet content regulation to a minimum

Reforms under review

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is soliciting advice into changes needed to the regulatory framework governing the Internet.

A panel of international regulators convened at the Information Communications Entertainment Conference (ICE) on Friday to discuss potential regulatory reforms in response to the technological developments in telecommunications.

New Zealand Broadcasting Standards Authority CEO Jane Wrightson said New Zealand commissioned an Internet content expert to address the question of what, or if any, regulation of the Internet was required.

According to Wrightson, two competing philosophies need to be balanced by governments - the traditional belief that governments should regulate in the public interest versus "the belief, vigorously defended in Internet culture, that networks foster their own communities and that individual voices must be protected from authority."

Wrightson said that alternative options to regulation must be considered, including no regulation, self-regulation and incentive-based schemes.

Regarding Internet-based content, self-regulation would be the best solution for 'pulled' content, or content delivered on request from content-providers to consumers, Wrightson said.

Overall, according to Wrightson, although the Internet is rife with illegal material, copyright violation and hate-speech, "the Internet should probably be left alone", and Internet-based and other non-traditional broadcast content should be regulated "only if absolutely necessary".

"The bad things of the Web should not be allowed to grind us to the benefits of probably the most remarkable information and entertainment tool invented in my lifetime," she said.

Lorna Wong Lung-shi, commissioner of the Hong Kong Television and Entertainment Licensing Authority said that as technologies converge and the line between broadcast and Internet content becomes blurred, regulatory bodies must also converge.

This process is already occurring in Australia. The ACMA is a relatively new agency which regulates both broadcast and Internet-based content.

Regulatory practices are also being converged, as the ACMA has begun rating Web sites with R18+, X18+ and RC (refused classification) ratings.

Lung-shi also notes that as platforms such as Web sites offering user-based content becomes more popular, "the degree to which a platform operator can control the content is called into question".

According to Lung-shi, while the Hong Kong government does not believe in leaving Internet-based services entirely unregulated, they will be taking a "light touch", laissez-faire approach.

Lung-shi and the third panelist, chairman of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, Dr. Halim Bin Shafie, both spoke of the need for any future regulation to be 'platform-neutral' as far as possible.

Platform-neutral regulation would not discriminate based on the technology the consumer uses to receive the telecommunications content.

All three panelists agreed that Internet content regulation should be minimal.

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