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Australian content in focus

2 mins  15.12.2017 John Fairbairn

Heightened competition between traditional Australian based media organisations and international players shines a light on the need for a modern legal framework to ensure Australian businesses can thrive in the digital media landscape.

Technology now permits media content from around the world to be viewed instantly through a myriad of digital devices and channels. This has the potential to offer audiences an unprecedented range of voices and perspectives.

Principle 8 of the Australian Government Convergence Review Interim Report notes that "Australians should have access to the broadest possible range of content across platforms, services and devices", and a technology neutral approach to the regulation of media. The media landscape has continued to shift since the Convergence Review, and the Independent Inquiry into the Media and Media Regulation ('Finklestein Inquiry') in 2012.

The online media environment has given rise to prominent global services such as Amazon, Spotify, Apple and Netflix, and the use of social media sites, such as Facebook, to access news media. There is also the ever evolving threat of online piracy, which evolves in competition to legitimate services.

The move to consuming content online in Australia has heightened competition between traditional Australian based media organisations and these international players. This in turn presents challenges to the way Australian media organisations fund and commercialise local content.

Ensuring that there are a variety of Australian voices in content, especially news, should be a key concern for regulators and the viewing public alike. However, we are still using a media framework from the 1990s. For example the regulation of news media is still split into print and broadcast media regulation. While there has been some recent relaxation of the merger restrictions, much more needs to be done if we want thriving local music, film, television, publishing and news industries.

Part of this situation is commercial, and rests on making sure that those who manage the platforms are motivated to assist in efforts to drive and promote local content. However, regulation plays an important role, for example in ensuring local advertising revenue flows back into local content production, and ensuring that platforms have cost effective ways of protecting themselves against piracy.

This situation highlights the importance of a modern legal framework to ensure that Australian businesses can also thrive in tomorrow's digital media landscape.

This dynamic environment also illuminates the need for cross-disciplinary legal practices focused on digital services, and equipped and adept enough to support local and international content suppliers alike.

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