Australia Plans To Regulate Netflix-Like Streaming Services

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Australia Plans To Regulate Netflix-Like Streaming Services
NFLX Photo by Matt Perreault

Netflix, Spotify, YouTube and ABC iView are some of the streaming services the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) could be in charge of regulating if the changes from a review into the government agency are enacted. Streaming services like Netflix and Spotify will come under the “applications and content layer” of the agencies’ new horizontal “stack” of services.

Why could Netflix and other similar services be regulated?

Last year, the government announced a review of the Australian Communications and Media Authority to determine how the agency could keep up with the big changes in recent years in the media and communications sectors. On Friday, a draft report of this review was released, and many changes were suggested, including the regulation of streaming services.

“A fundamental issue with the current regulatory regime is the distinction which is sought to be maintained in a number of areas between broadcasting, telecommunications and internet services, at a time when the boundaries between these industries are increasingly difficult to define,” the report says.

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The draft also says that subjecting traditional broadcasters to regulatory treatment on the basis of the broadcast technologies they employ has become quite difficult to justify with the recent take-up of applications such as Spotify and Netflix.

Regulatory gaps such as the FreeTV code of practice that applies to TV networks have been brought up by the report as well. FreeTV code does not apply to streaming services, including catch-up services run by free-to-air networks, but it does apply to a TV network that delivers content via traditional means.

How is traditional media is different from modern media?

The report further says that the ability of one service provider to deliver the same content over different networks to different devices has led to inconsistent regulatory treatment. Also the degree of influence these services can hold in relation to newspapers, broadcasting and traditional TV networks was also brought up in the report.

The report explains that the control and ownership rules for broadcasting, newspapers and data casting in the media sector are designed to limit the degree influence of any one media proprietor, but it does not consider new patterns of consumer behavior or the new suppliers and forms of media content and communications.

A combination of these issues forces the ACMA to believe that the regulation of current media and communications legislation in Australia, is “under strain, increasingly ‘unfit for purpose,’ and often unsuited to the goal of promoting the public interest.”

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