Thursday, 12 December 2019 11:58

Govt to provide $26.9m for ACCC to monitor digital platforms Featured

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Govt to provide $26.9m for ACCC to monitor digital platforms Image by Thomas Ulrich from Pixabay

The Federal Government will provide $26.9 million for the Australian competition watchdog to keep an eye on competition issues arising with digital platforms, with the ACCC to set up a special unit for this purpose.

Additionally, the ACCC will work with digital platforms to develop and implement a voluntary code to address any concerns that have been identified.

The government’s response to the digital platforms inquiry report, submitted to it by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in June, was announced on Thursday by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, along with Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Attorney-General Christian Porter and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher. The report was made public on 26 July.

The measures recommended in the government’s response were:

  • "Investing $26.9 million in a new special unit in the ACCC to monitor and report on the state of competition and consumer protection in digital platform markets, taking enforcement action as necessary, and undertaking inquiries as directed by the treasurer, starting with the supply of online advertising and ad‑tech services.
  • "Commencing a staged process to reform media regulation towards a platform-neutral regulatory framework covering both online and offline delivery of media content to Australian consumers.
  • "Addressing bargaining power imbalances between digital platforms and news media businesses by asking the ACCC to work with the relevant parties to develop and implement voluntary codes to address these concerns. The ACCC will provide a progress report to government on the code negotiations in May 2020, with the code to be finalised no later than November 2020. If an agreement is not forthcoming, the government will develop alternative options which may include the creation of a mandatory code.
  • "Conducting a review of the Privacy Act and ensuring privacy settings empower consumers, protect their data and best serve the Australian economy, which builds on our commitment to increase penalties and introduce a binding social media and online platforms privacy code announced in the 2019-20 Budget."

The government also said it would commence the first stage of media regulation reforms next year in order to:

  • develop an uniform classification framework across all media platforms;
  • determine the extent of Australian content obligations on free-to-air television broadcasters (including drama and children’s content), and whether there should be Australian content obligations on subscription video-on-demand services; and
  • identify other aspects of the policy framework to support Australian film and television content.

"In early 2020, the government will release an options paper co-authored by Screen Australia and the Australian Communications and Media Authority that will look at how to best support Australian stories on our screens in a modern, multi-platform environment," the statement added.

The Digital Industry Group, a lobby group that represents Google, Facebook and Twitter among others, said it would closely examine the government's response and "continue to contribute to the ongoing consultation with the Government and regulatory bodies".

DIGI managing director Sunita Bose said in a statement: "We recognise the importance of the issues raised in relation to maintaining competition in the news and advertising markets, and ensuring consumer privacy is protected online.

"We’ll be studying the proposals in detail to ensure that the consumer protections are fit for a digital era, and that there are no unintended consequences for Australia’s digital future, economic growth and global competitiveness.

"We welcome an economy-wide review of the Privacy Act, as consumers will have the same expectations of privacy, regardless of the specific company they interact with or the sector within which that company sits.

"At the same time, we also recognise that privacy needs to be central to digital products and services and have been engaging with the OAIC on the Government’s proposed digital platforms code.

"DIGI is supportive of efforts to modernise relevant media laws for a digital era, and we look forward to contributing to the development of a regulatory framework that duly recognises some of the fundamental differences between digital products and media businesses."

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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