Content regulation in a digitally-converged environment

[25 June 2013] The Final Report in ICASA’s Review of the Broadcasting Regulatory Framework towards a Digitally Converged Environment was published on 25 June 2013. The Conclusions section is set out below:

Final Report on Review of Broadcasting Regulatory Framework June 2013

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5 PART D: CONCLUSION

5.1 This broadcasting regulatory review process has resulted in some stakeholders emphasising that certain regulations, which have been in force since 1993 to date, should be left unchanged as the sector advances towards a digital environment.

5.2 Other stakeholders re-directed the Authority as to which regulations it should prioritise during the next few years. For example, People with Disabilities were concerned that most of the Authority’s regulations do not address targeted groups, i.e. women, youth, disabled and elderly people, and they proposed that the Authority should prioritise targeted groups when dealing with universal access to broadcasting services.

5.3 Based on this consultation the Authority has identified a regulatory program that will strike an appropriate balance between regulation to achieve and preserve the social and cultural objectives of broadcasting in South Africa and regulation for economic and technical outcomes for the South African digital broadcasting environment. This regulatory program involves the prioritisation of regulations to be reviewed in the short, medium to long-term plans, taking into account the submissions received through this process, socio-economic concerns, legal obligations and the competing demands for the Authority needs to balance.

5.4 The Authority is of the view that in order to conduct substantive, efficient and valuable reviews there is a need to focus on a lesser number of regulations that the Authority and the stakeholders have identified as needing urgent attention.

5.5 Therefore the Authority has decided to commence with the review of Local Content Regulations and Elections Regulations in the 2013/2014 financial year. Local Content Regulations are critical for the success of digital broadcasting, while Elections Regulations must be completed before national elections in the calendar year 2014.

5.6 Other regulations identified within the short term are Sport broadcasting services, Community broadcasting services, Subscription broadcasting services and Must Carry Regulations. The review of these regulations is important to create regulatory certainty for the sector in the DTT environment.

5.7 Regulations to be reviewed in the medium term timeframe include the licensing framework for DTT services, Advertising, Infomercials and programme sponsorship, Code of conduct for broadcasters, Private sound broadcasting services, Inquiry into Digital Radio Broadcasting Regulatory and Licensing Framework, Ownership and control, Introduction of the first Free-to-Air Television Service in South Africa as well as Universal service and access fund. The review of these regulations is identified as being critical to diversity, universal access and stability of the sector.

5.8 The long term regulations identified are IPTV and VOD, Regional Television Broadcasting Services, Low Power Sound Broadcasting, Self Help stations and Special Events Licenses. These were identified to encourage social cohesion, universal access and continued relevance of these to the digital broadcasting environment.

5.9 The Authority still holds the view that it is not the only regulator that has embarked on the regulatory review process; recent examples are Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) in Canada, Australia’s Convergence Review Final Report and the United Kingdom’s Communications Review.

5.10 Stakeholders should therefore also refer to the detailed list of all prioritised regulations is contained in annexure A in order to find the Authority’s regulatory plans for the next coming years to support the Government’s 2020 ICT vision.

5.11 The Authority benefitted greatly from all the inputs and views expressed by stakeholders in the context of South Africa’s own broadcasting regulatory policy history and would like to thank all stakeholders who supported and participated in discussions and airing their views.

5.12 This paper represents the final positions of the Authority on this process.

ICASA has published an Issues Paper on the Review of the Broadcasting Regulatory Framework towards a Digitally Converged Environment (6MB .pdf). This is mainly focused on broadcasting but potentially touches on issues relevant to electronic communications service providersn such as Internet Service Providers when it covers the need to review content regulation on broadcasters given the increasing delivery of the same content over other delivery platforms.

Comment due by 14 March with public hearings scheduled for 26 – 30 March 2012.

Executive Summary:
The Independent Communication Authority of South Africa, hereafter referred to as the Authority, carries out its regulatory policy making function in a broadcasting environment undergoing far-reaching change: it is an entirely digital environment, it is both linear and non-linear, access is free or for a charge, and all communications platforms now offer broadcasting content. It is necessary to review previous regulations governing the broadcasting industry so as to take into account these new technological, cultural, economic and social challenges.

The need to review analogue regulatory regimes as a result of the transition to digital terrestrial television broadcasting has been recognised by various policy and regulatory authorities, such as Australia, Canada, United Kingdom and New Zealand. The authorities engaged in various public processes to adapt their existing regulatory frameworks to the new market structures and dynamics of the broadcasting industry in order to achieve their respective public policy goals.

The switch-over of broadcasting from analogue terrestrial television to digital terrestrial television is scheduled to take place in 2013.

There have been two prior reviews of the regulatory landscape, The Triple Inquiry Report (1996) and The Broadcasting Act (1999), but these both took place In the analogue transmission era.

The overall objective is to ensure that regulatory framework for broadcasting services promotes the development of public, commercial and community broadcasting services which, in the context of digital
convergence and migration, are responsive to the needs of the public, which promote a plurality of news, views and information and provide a wide range of entertainment and educational programmes, a proportion of which are locally produced; and provide legal and investor certainty.

This will be achieved through the strategic review and assessment of the future needs of the broadcasting regulatory framework in South Africa. The current analogue technology-based regulatory framework for broadcasting does not fit with the reality of the continued rise of digital technology and the expected influx of competing media services on the next generation networks or platforms which are not subject to the same regulatory obligations imposed on current broadcasting services licensees.

The Authority’s Issues Paper first explores the context and guiding regulatory principles for the review of the broadcasting sector regulatory framework, and then outlines the legislative background and overview of ICASA regulatory mandate.

It highlights the digitally converged regulatory frameworks in international jurisdictions. In dealing with the challenges facing the current South African regulatory frameworks, specific regulatory questions are raised for consideration by all stakeholders. The paper raises general regulatory policy issues for further comment before dealing with conclusions and consolidating all consultation questions.

From January to March 2012 the Authority will engage the relevant stakeholders and the public in a comprehensive Provincial consultative process.

The Issues Paper reflects a neutral discussion of critical regulatory frameworks moving into the digitally converged environment. At this early stage of the review process, the Authority will not draw any conclusions.

2013-06-25T18:00:56+00:00Jun 25th, 2013|miscellaneous, News, snippets|