THE ROLE OF A BROADCASTING REGULATOR

MISA believes the current broadcasting restrictions will not be eased until the government relinquishes control of broadcasting regulation. MISA is calling for an independent regulator, tasked with creating a broadcasting environment that is plural, diverse, independent and able to realise the public’s right to information.

The regulator operates in two areas: (1) licensing and (2) content regulation. With regard to licensing, the regulator is expected to publicly tender the frequencies and issues licenses according to criteria that will ensure professionalism, independence, and diversity. The licensing process needs to be fair and transparent. In this process the regulator must ensure diverse ownership so that licenses are not concentrated in the hands of a few, thereby creating a new monopoly to replace the state. The licenses should be issued for a specified period, but be easily renewable as long as the broadcaster continues providing the service as stipulated in their license agreement. The regulator is then charged with investigating complaints of license breaches. Broadcasters are required to keep recordings of all programs for a minimum of three months to enable such investigations.

The regulator is also responsible for some content regulation. This does not mean broadcasters are robbed of their editorial independence. Primary responsibility for upholding professional standards rests with the individual broadcasters who self-regulate with their own codes of practice. But some sensitive areas are especially open to abuse and given the limited number of players in broadcasting such abuse can infringe on the right to freedom of expression and the right to access information. These areas include election coverage, advertising and sponsorship, local content, important national events, children’s programming and language diversity.

See the page on law reform for current legislation governing broadcasting regulation.

Also see the page on self-regulation for more information.

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