On 30 April 2012, the Final Report of the Australian Convergence Review Committee was handed down. The Report recommends substantive changes to Australia’s media, telecommunications, Internet, and content regulatory landscape. The Review is one of the most far-reaching convergence reviews yet undertaken by any country in the world.
The context to the review is rapid technological innovation. The digitisation of content has enabled its replication and communication in exponential volume and variety. The Internet has enabled standardisation of content delivery. Superfast broadband Internet access is ensuring immediate delivery. Fantastically powerful computers are evolving in ever more convenient devices. Software applications in these devices are delivering content in a form that is highly refined for consumer needs, providing a rich interactive experience.
Convergence is a result of such innovation. Historically, each content type had a dedicated delivery platform into the home, including telecommunications via copper wire, pay television via hybrid fibre coaxial cable, and news via traditional print media. Innovation has now conflated these platforms. Any content may now be digitised and delivered into the home using a smart device on any platform. Business models have evolved as a result. Traditional business models are being supplanted and substantial market entry is occurring. Market boundaries are blurring. As regulation is still tailored for historic platforms and markets, the convergence of these platforms and markets is causing an accelerating regulatory disconnect.
Against this context, the task of the Convergence Review Committee was ambitious. The Committee sought to identify key policy principles to underpin a new regulatory framework. This framework would cater for continued innovation and convergence in the coming years. A clear challenge for the Committee was to identify simple concepts that could apply to a complex and dynamic environment.
The seven most significant recommendations in the Final Report of the Convergence Review Committee are summarised briefly below.