- ACMA praised for flood updates to the deaf community
- Telstra CEO meets Authority members
- Spectrum review delivers a win for emergency services
- Communications and media industry adapting to the new digital economy
- New Eligible Drama Expenditure Scheme results for 2009–10
- Parental lock takes effect
- Annual numbering charge target set at $60 million
- ACMA changes numbering rules to meet VoIP challenge
- National radiocommunications training addresses industry needs
- Proposed new approach for recreational boaters operating VHF marine radios
- Changes proposed to AP Scheme principles
- Fixed-line performance improves in 2009–10
- Proposed changes to the ACMA’s broadcasting enforcement powers
- Virgin Blue agrees to overhaul its email marketing
- Children’s Television Standards breached
- Children’s and preschool programs granted classification, November and December 2010
- Temporary community broadcasting licences allocated, November and December 2010
Advocates for Australia’s deaf community have praised the quick response of ACMA staff to the recent flood crisis in Queensland, which affected the operation of the National Relay Service (NRS) for several days.
The NRS provides telecommunications services, including the emergency call service, to people who are deaf or have a hearing or speech impairment. Its main Brisbane call centre had to be evacuated on Wednesday 12 January due to the flood risk, and the danger this presented to staff trying to access the call centre.
ACMA staff worked with Telstra to find a temporary location for the NRS at one of its exchanges, ensuring that the 106 number for text-based, telephone typewriter (TTY) emergency calls operated continuously throughout the flood crisis. However, the full range of services, including internet relay calls and Speak and Listen calls, was suspended temporarily.
During this time, the ACMA worked with the NRS outreach provider to communicate the situation to the deaf community, with regular updates posted on the ACMA website and the NRS website at www.relayservice.com.au. Importantly, ACMA staff developed three videos in Auslan during the course of the incident, notifying the deaf community that the NRS was affected. As well as Auslan videos, the ACMA posted a text-based NRS update on YouTube.
Karen Lloyd, Deaf Australia’s Executive Officer, congratulated the ACMA for its response: ‘The closure of the NRS at the height of the crisis was of serious concern to us, and affected the deaf community nationally, so the swift actions by the ACMA in making information available in Auslan helped alleviate the problem of access to information in the crisis.’
The NRS has been fully operational since midday on Thursday 13 January.
David Thodey, who was appointed Telstra CEO in mid 2009, recently met with the Authority in Melbourne where he underlined his stated commitment to improving the carrier’s customer service.
The event is part of a regular stakeholder engagement program where stakeholders meet directly and informally with the Authority Members. Several Telstra executives attended the lunch meeting, which was an opportunity for new members to be briefed on Telstra’s plans for the year ahead.
The ACMA has created an excellent opportunity for state, territory and federal emergency services to improve interoperability, with the release of new arrangements for spectrum in the 403–520 MHz band.
The new spectrum arrangements, released on 23 December 2010 after a comprehensive three-year review of the 400 MHz band, provide harmonised spectrum for government use, and promote the use of new and emerging technologies in the band. The new arrangements, combined with more flexible usage guidelines, will also reduce congestion in the band.
The provision of harmonised spectrum for government agencies is a key achievement. Until now, the various state, territory and federal government agencies have used disparate spectrum for their operations. When cross-border operations or national emergencies have required the presence of interstate resources, the lack of interoperable radio systems has hampered the effectiveness of the response.
The ACMA believes strongly that dedicated harmonised spectrum of appropriate size and structure is critical to enabling interoperable radiocommunications between national security, law enforcement and emergency services. These arrangements mark the beginning of a new era in government radio networks, with the emergence of large, efficient networks that provide a greater level of support for emergency services and other vital government objectives.
The new arrangements create a significant and rarely delivered opportunity for government organisations to develop a nationally harmonised and interoperable system of government radio networks able to deliver effective radiocommunications on a national scale.
Several segments in 403–470 MHz have now been identified for the exclusive use of government, primarily to support national security, law enforcement and emergency services. The ACMA has developed these arrangements in close consultation with individual stakeholders, relevant committees and peak industry groups. It has also participated in a number of national committees and working groups to ensure that its spectrum arrangements are complemented by an appropriate national interoperability strategy.
This strategy, which initially emerged as an agreed national framework for improved radiocommunications interoperability, was endorsed by the Council of Australian Governments in December 2009. The ACMA will continue to work with other government bodies to implement the goals of the framework.
‘The harmonisation of government spectrum use in the 400 MHz band provides an unprecedented opportunity for significant gains in essential and emergency service interoperability between and amongst state and federal government agencies,’ said ACMA Chairman Chris Chapman.
‘The review’s release also gives industry the certainty they need to plan for the future and take advantage of the longer term benefits offered by the new arrangements.’
Non-government users of the 400 MHz band will also see significant benefits from the outcomes of the review, such as an ability to expand their businesses through the availability of more channels and the opportunity to use feature-rich, leading-edge radio technology in the band.
As well as substantial changes to the band’s overall structure through the creation of harmonised government spectrum and revised frequency splits, there will be improvements to underlying technical arrangements in the band. This includes a reduction in channel bandwidths and updates to the assignment and coordination rules.
Additionally, changing both the frequency duplex arrangements in the 450–470 MHz band and the channelling scheme will increase the technology options that the band can support. These systems were not supported under previous arrangements.
The ACMA recognises that there will be disruption in the short to medium term as these outcomes are implemented by licensees and industry. However, it believes that the transition strategy and timeframes laid out in The way ahead: Timeframes and implementation plans for the 400 MHz band will minimise any impact.
The ACMA is confident that the new arrangements will improve the value of the 400 MHz band. Most importantly, the public benefit of the band will be maximised by expanding its use and flexibility, and improving the effectiveness of licensees’ radiocommunications services.
The broad objectives of the review were to:
- improve the harmonisation of spectrum used by state, territory and federal government agencies to assist in radiocommunications interoperability objectives and the development of efficient government networks
- improve the allocative, technical and dynamic efficiency with which spectrum in the band is allocated and used, by reviewing the relevant frequency assigning and licensing mechanisms (including band plans, licensing instructions, licensing options and pricing)
- facilitate new technologies and possible complementary uses of the band
- implement arrangements that take advantage of the different spectrum management requirements and challenges between different geographic areas
- minimise the requirement for ongoing ACMA intervention in the band.
For more information on the ACMA’s review of the 400 MHz band or to view The way ahead: Timeframes and implementation plans for the 400 MHz band, visit the ACMA website.
The internet and other digital communications are presenting both challenges and new business opportunities to Australia’s existing communication and media sectors, according to a new ACMA report.
Changing business models in the Australian communications and media sectors: Challenges and response strategies confirms communications and media service providers are meeting these challenges by adopting a range of initiatives that seek to both protect existing revenue streams and enable diversification into other services.
The report highlights that the digital economy continues to empower consumers in Australia with greater flexibility in the use of voice and media services, which enables them to better ‘mix and match’ services to suit changing lifestyle needs.
However, challenges to established market operators have also emerged as a result of network and device convergence. This has blurred the boundaries between communications and media services, allowing service providers to increasingly enter new markets.
As telecommunications providers compete for new business in the rapidly changing digital world, consumers are being offered more generous data allowances, mobile caps and pricing, as well as internet and VoIP bundling, and ‘smartphone’ features on their home handsets.
Media companies are also adapting to the new business environment, exploiting new digital television channels and offering their digital products to new devices. New payment models are being explored and content is being made available through different on-demand portals and in catch-up formats.
Existing communications and media players are fighting to retain revenue, market share and audience numbers in the face of these changes and are responding with a wide range of initiatives. ACMA research suggests that innovative service delivery by the communications and media sectors on an increasing diversity of digital platforms and consumer devices is playing an important role in transitioning Australians to a digital economy.
Within the communications sector, response strategies have typically tended to include:
- bundling voice and content services, such as IPTV, to existing broadband subscribers
- expanding data download quotas to broadband subscribers to allow increased consumption of data services
- offering more generous mobile caps and pricing packages to help the development of the mobile content service market
- developing handset and handset application innovations—for example, the emergence of the next generation of wireless devices like smartphones
- offering further incentives to customers on the condition of retaining existing traditional fixed-line telephone services.
Within the broadcasting and print newspaper sectors—which both face increased audience and readership fragmentation—these strategies have tended to focus on a number of initiatives including:
- developing online distribution channels to increase the profile of content and services in the face of growing online participation
- attempting to charge for content on the internet, through the introduction of pay-per-view or subscription services to select ‘premium’ content
- meeting audience demand for flexibility in content viewing and content format—typified by the emergence of catch-up viewing formats
- developing video content specifically for the next generation of new consumer tools, such as smartphones and other wireless devices
- developing new content sources, where consumers are able to access a greater variety of content nationally and globally—for example, digital television, digital radio, IPTV and internet radio.
This report is the final in a series of four research reports published under the ACMA’s communications report series. Other reports in this series include:
- Report 1—Australia in the digital economy: The shift to the online environment
- Report 2—Take-up and use of voice services by Australian consumers
- Report 3—Australian consumer satisfaction with communications services.
This suite of reports is designed to complement the Communications report 2009–10, which is produced under section 105 of the Telecommunications Act 1997. The Act requires the ACMA to report on the performance of carriers and carriage service providers, with particular reference to consumer benefits, consumer satisfaction and quality of service. The communications report series seeks to inform ACMA stakeholders about convergence and the digital economy, and their impact on communications and media services.
The communications report series and an audiovisual presentation are available on the ACMA beta website at www.commsreport.engage.acma.gov.au.
The pay TV industry spent $35.28 million on Australian and New Zealand drama programs in the 2009–10 financial year, meeting its obligations under the New Eligible Drama Expenditure Scheme.
Investment under the scheme helped Australians produce a wide variety of local feature films and drama series such as Balibo, Cloudstreet and Packed to the Rafters, and to benefit from the support of Australian drama, film and animation competitions such as Tropfest and Nick Shorts.
Under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992, pay TV licensees that broadcast drama channels, and the providers of those channels, must invest at least 10 per cent of their total program expenditure on new Australian drama programs. While most of the programs funded under the scheme appear on either pay TV channels, in cinemas or on free-to air television, not all are broadcast—the rules only require expenditure on programs and not their actual broadcast.
The scheme also accommodates the dynamics of production schedules by allowing licensees and channel providers to operate under an ‘accrual-type’ system, where obligations that arise in one reporting period can be fully acquitted in the following period.
All participants complied with the rules of the scheme in 2009–10. The $11.18 million remaining of the 2008–09 expenditure obligation was acquitted and $15.66 million of the 2009–10 expenditure obligation was met.
For more information on the New Eligible Drama Expenditure Scheme, contact the ACMA Broadcasting Standards Section on 02 9334 7700 or visit the website.
Aggregate expenditure on new Australian drama by pay TV drama services
New eligible drama expenditure requirement (equals 10 per cent of all
drama program expenditure)
|Expenditure on new eligible drama||35.28||28.47||20.06|
|Expenditure nominated to acquit previous year's remaining obligation||11.18||13.90#||10.47*|
|Expenditure toward current year's 10 per cent requirement||15.66||14.67||9.16|
|Obligation to be met in the next financial year||12.22||11.18^||13.94|
#A licensee failed to acquit $40,000 of the 2007–08 obligation within the prescribed timeframe but remedied this in 2009–10.
*Licensees failed to acquit $22,300 of the 2006–07 obligations within the prescribed timeframe but remedied this in 2008–09.
^A late amendment reduced this figure from the $11.30 million reported previously.
Drama channels and productions
The 26 drama channels reported on in 2009–10 are:>
|Boomerang||Cartoon Network||Turner Classic Movies||Universal (Hallmark) Channel||13th Street Channel|
|KidsCo TV||Disney Channel||Playhouse Disney||Fox 8||Fox Classics|
|Triple 1 Hits||Movie Extra||Movie Greats||Movie One||Starpics (MNC)|
|Family Movie||Nickelodeon||Showcase||Showtime||Showtime Greats|
|Showtime Action||Showtime Comedy||Showtime Drama||TV1||SCI FI|
The licensees broadcasting relevant drama channels in 2009–10 are:
|AUSTAR||FOXTEL Cable Television||Neighbourhood Cable||Optus||SelecTV|
The channel providers participating in the scheme are:
|Walt Disney Company Australia||FOXTEL Management||The Movie Network Channels||Nickelodeon Australia||The Premium Movie Partnership (providing the Showtime channels)|
|TV1 (providing the TV1 and SCI FI channels)||BBC Worldwide Channels Australasia (providing the UKTV and CBeebies channels)||
Sparrowhawk International Channels Limited (providing the Hallmark/
|NBCU Global Networks Asia PTE Limited (providing the 13th Street channel)|
In 2009–10, scheme participants reported expenditure on 67 Australian and/or New Zealand drama productions and co-productions. Titles include the following:
|Film||Arctic Blast, Balibo and Cloudstreet|
|Series||30 Seconds, As the Bell Rings (Season 3), The Jesters (Season 2), Offspring, Packed to the Rafters, Penelope K by the Way, Rake, Satisfaction (Season 3), Slide, Small Time Gangsters, Spirited and Tangle (Season 2). Eight projects also received investment for script development.|
|Australian drama, film and animation competitions and festivals||Tropfest, Optus one80 project, Short+Sweet, Flickerfest, Movie Extra Webfest 2010 and Nick Shorts.|
Parents will be able to more effectively monitor their children’s television viewing habits, with the parental lock now a compulsory feature on all new digital television receivers sold in Australia.
Parental lock allows controlled access to programs based on their classification; for example, G, PG, M or MA. While this setting is currently available on many existing televisions, set-top boxes and personal video recorders, all new digital television receivers introduced to the market after 4 February 2011 must have the parental lock feature.
‘The ACMA has introduced the parental lock standard, after consultation with industry and consumers, to support parents and guardians in protecting their children from content on television which they might consider inappropriate or harmful,’ said ACMA Chairman Chris Chapman.
When activating parental lock in their equipment, users are prompted to select a program classification level above which they wish programs to be blocked (for example, ‘PG and above’) and a personal identification number (PIN). The parental lock feature then prevents any program classified at or above the selected level from being shown on the equipment unless the PIN number is entered.
Parental lock can be disabled permanently at any time through the menu but will require PIN entry to be changed. Viewers should record and store this PIN when first setting parental lock.
If viewers do not choose to activate the feature it will not have any effect on their digital television equipment.
Parental lock will not block programs that are not subject to classification, such as news, current affairs and sports programs. Parents who are concerned that these types of programs may contain inappropriate content for their children cannot rely on parental lock.
Some digital television receivers currently for sale may have been supplied before the standard took effect, and so may not include the parental lock feature. Retailers will be able to advise consumers if a particular model has parental lock and demonstrate how it works.
For further consumer information on parental lock, visit the ACMA website.
Information for industry
Industry requirements are set out in the Broadcasting and Datacasting Services (Parental Lock) Technical Standard 2010. From 4 February 2011, it became an offence to supply new equipment to the Australian market that does not have the parental lock feature. However, manufacturers, importers and retailers can continue to supply equipment that does not have the lock if the brand and model of the equipment was first offered for sale prior to 4 February 2011.
There are no labelling or record-keeping requirements currently in force for the parental lock standard. The ACMA will investigate reports of the supply of new equipment without the parental lock function after 4 February 2011, to ascertain whether there has been any contravention of requirements under the parental lock standard. Offence and civil penalty provisions for the parental lock standard are set out in subsections 130b(2) and 130b(3) of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992. Contraventions of these provisions may incur pecuniary penalties of up to $165,000.
For further information on industry requirements, or for a copy of the standard and associated documents, visit the ACMA website.
Preparations are now underway to collect the 2011 annual numbering charge (ANC) from carriage service providers (CSPs) who hold telephone numbers. The ACMA collects a set amount of revenue each year and, as has been the case since 1999, the 2011 revenue target for ANC is $60 million.
The ACMA has written to number-holding CSPs about the 2011 ANC process. Important dates for 2011 include:
- 10 March—the last day on which CSPs can surrender numbers to the ACMA
- 3 April—census date when the 2011 ANC is calculated
- late April—the ACMA to send out invoices
- 15 June—payment deadline for CSPs.
A late payment penalty will apply to any payments made after 15 June 2011.
An estimation of the base number charge for 2011, calculated at 16 December 2010, is $0.69. The final base number charge will vary from this amount depending on number allocations and surrenders between this date and the census date.
The final base number charge is calculated each year on the census date and later published in the ANC section of the ACMA website. The amount to be paid for numbers of differing lengths is also published. CSPs can obtain updates of the base amount and their ANC debt by logging into the ACMA’s online numbering system (NUMB).
The ACMA administers the ANC under the Telecommunications (Numbering Charges) Act 1997, the Telecommunications Act 1997 and four determinations made by the ACMA under these Acts.
The determinations set the following parameters for collecting the ANC:
- the census date (date of imposition of the charge)
- the formula to calculate the amount of charge per number and the types of numbers exempt from the ANC
- the payment date
- penalty provisions for late payment.
CSPs are liable for charges for all the numbers they hold (except for geographic, community service, international signalling point codes and telex numbers) on the census date in April each year.
The charge imposed on a particular number depends on its length. A base number charge is set for a 10-digit number and this amount is increased by a factor of 10 for each reduction by one digit in the number’s length. The maximum amount imposed on any one number is $100,000. Numbers that CSPs use to provide certain low-revenue or no-revenue services, such as testing numbers, are charged at a discounted rate.
The formula used to calculate the ANC is set out in the Telecommunications (Annual Charge) Determination 2007 (No. 2). This formula can be used with the base number charge to determine the actual charge for any specific number of a given length.
The final base number charge for 2010 was $0.79. This meant that 10-digit numbers such as mobile numbers were charged at $0.79 each, nine-digit numbers were charged at $7.90 each, eight-digit numbers at $79.00 each and so on.
The ACMA has changed the geographic numbering rules to improve flexibility in the Numbering Plan. The amendments, which came into effect on 1 February 2011, recognise the realities of newer services like voice over internet protocol (VoIP).
The amendment removes the limitations on outbound-only services (including VoIP) and provides a framework to govern the use of geographic numbers when used for services outside their normal area.
‘The introduction and uptake of new services such as VoIP has challenged the relevance of parts of the Numbering Plan, which dated back to 1997, to meet industry and consumer needs,’ said ACMA Deputy Chairman Richard Bean.
‘The implementation of these amendments represents a small but important step in regulatory transition for VoIP and other converged services. It will support innovation in the new telecommunications services being offered to Australian consumers.’
Geographic numbers are 10-digit numbers starting with 02, 03, 07 or 08—commonly referred to as landline or fixed-line numbers. For the purpose of geographic numbering, Australia is divided into 2,054 geographic areas called standard zone units (SZUs). The ACMA allocates geographic numbers to carriage service providers (CSPs) for use in particular SZUs. If a CSP offers a service with a geographic number to a customer and that service is located outside the SZU for the number, this is known as being ‘out of area’.
Obtaining a telephone service that uses an out of area number is an attractive option for some consumers; however, there are some potential implications that consumers need to be aware of before agreeing to accept an out of area number:
- if a caller makes a call to a number that is out of area, he or she may be charged as if the service is located in the SZU identified by the number and not the SZU it is actually located in
- if a consumer receives an out of area number and then wishes to change providers and keep their number, he or she may not be able to find a CSP that is willing to accept the number.
CSPs who offer services using out of area numbers are required to inform their customers of these implications before supplying them with a service. The ACMA will undertake an education campaign for industry and consumers over the coming months. It expects providers to accommodate the new rules in 2011 and compliance monitoring is expected to commence in 2012.
While VoIP services have been available in Australia for some time, these amendments give VoIP providers more certainty about how numbers can be used and what information they must provide to consumers if the geographic numbers are issued to customers out of area.
The ACMA is examining a broader range of emerging numbering issues and has already released two issues papers, most recently Customer location information and numbering data. The first paper—Numbering: Structure of Australia’s telephone numbering plan, was released in October last year and examines the underlying structure of the Numbering Plan.
The consultation papers and further information on the Numbering Plan are available on the ACMA website.
A nationally accredited Certificate IV training course in Radiocommunications is now available to industry, following a three-year ACMA project.
Knowledge retention and the development and maintenance of specific technical skills are crucial to the ACMA’s capacity to effectively manage the radiocommunications spectrum. This new national competency training will help to overcome the problem of an ageing workforce and ensure a pool of trained radiocommunications technicians is available in the future.
Work began in late 2007 with a skills and knowledge audit of relevant radiocommunications staff across the ACMA. A training specialist, Communications and Information Technology Training Ltd, was hired to map these skills and knowledge to existing industry competencies and qualifications. The exercise identified 17 core competencies, which included three new ones—monitoring, site audits and operating monitoring field equipment.
Industry validation of the competencies was conducted to ensure they had wide applicability within the radiocommunications industry. The validated package was then submitted to Innovation and Business Skills Australia (IBSA). This council is responsible for establishing Australia-wide skills training for the telecommunications and radiocommunications industry.
IBSA submitted the training package to education ministers in each state and territory and the package was approved on 11 November 2008. However, the three new competencies also required approval from each state training authority. This approval was granted in late 2009.
Late in 2010, the Certificate IV in Telecommunications/Radiocommunications and its competencies was listed on the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF). The AQF identifies training qualifications that are recognised nationally and endorsed by all governments in Australia.
Key attributes of this training framework include the:
- ability to recognise prior learning so that skills training gained on the job can be formally recognised
- flexibility to adapt course content to specific business or industry needs
- availability of a range of training delivery mechanisms.
The ACMA has selected Chisholm Institute of TAFE to deliver the Certificate IV training to its staff. The radiocommunications industry can also access this Australia-wide training through Chisholm Institute of TAFE or any other Registered Training Organisation.
Further details on the Certificate IV in Telecommunications/Radiocommunications is available on the National Training Information Service website.
As part of its review of marine radio operator arrangements for recreational boaters in Australia, the ACMA is seeking public comment on a second consultation paper.
A new approach for recreational boaters who operate VHF marine radios outlines a number of proposals the ACMA believes will more effectively achieve its spectrum management objective of enabling the correct use of VHF channels and protocols by recreational boaters.
The key proposals are:
- To remove the mandatory requirement for recreational boaters to hold a marine radio operator’s certificate of proficiency before communicating in the VHF bands within Australian territorial waters.
- For marine radio operator qualification arrangements to be managed by an organisation with closer ties to the marine community.
The approach preferred by the ACMA would reduce the regulatory burden on the recreational boating community, in keeping with government deregulation policy. Importantly, recreational boaters would continue to be able to voluntarily obtain certificates of proficiency and would still be required to hold a certificate for VHF communications outside Australian territorial waters.
One of the significant outcomes of the review to date is identifying the need for the recreational boating community to be more aware of the correct radio channels to use and the protocols involved in using them. With only 29 per cent of boaters who operate a VHF radio having a certificate of proficiency, it is important that information about correct radio use and protocols is broadly promoted to recreational boaters.
An information campaign is being developed to provide relevant information. Online and printed material will be distributed through organisations with close links to the recreational boating sector. Members of the ACMA’s working party of state marine safety and regulatory bodies, marine volunteer organisations and other key interested bodies are supporting the development of the campaign.
An initial discussion paper was released in September 2009 alerting stakeholders to the issues being considered and seeking submissions from interested parties. Sixty-nine submissions were received. Since then a range of activities have been undertaken, including:
- commissioning an independent survey to measure awareness and compliance with the marine radio operator’s certificate of proficiency
- examining available marine safety data and regulation of carriage of VHF marine radios
- analysing the regulatory options available to the ACMA.
Analysis has focused on the ACMA’s spectrum management responsibilities, examining and appropriately supporting the needs of the recreational boating community in their use of VHF radio, and promoting the overall efficiency of the relevant regulatory framework. The feasibility of implementing alternative regulatory options in the short to medium term has also been considered.
Comments closed on Monday 28 February 2011.
The consultation paper and submission details are available on the ACMA website.
The ACMA is proposing three changes to the principles that govern the Accredited Persons Scheme and is seeking public comment on these changes.
The proposed amendments to Radiocommunications (Accreditation – Prescribed Certificates) Principles 2003 follow a review of the scheme. They would provide for:
- Recognition of New Zealand engineering qualifications as equivalent for Australian accreditation.
- Removal of the Deed of Indemnity for Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 (FMA Act) bodies (Commonwealth Government Departments). The requirement for a Deed of Indemnity for individuals and organisations not governed by the FMA Act would continue.
- Withdrawal of accreditation if a person has been inactive for at least two years, in order to ensure that the skills of Accredited Persons (APs) remain current. In such cases, APs would be given the opportunity to prove why they should not have the accreditation withdrawn.
The ACMA’s review confirmed that the scheme is providing a successful market-based solution for frequency coordination and emission-level management. Improving quality control and removing barriers to becoming an AP are two of the main outcomes of the review that will help to ensure the scheme’s continued success.
APs undertake over 90 per cent of all certification work for apparatus and spectrum licensing. This figure has been steadily increasing—recently, APs processed the majority of applications associated with the spectrum release in the 3.6 GHz band (for wireless access services) and all applications in the 2 GHz band (for public telecommunications services).
New Zealand already recognises Australian engineering qualifications as an equivalent qualification for accreditation. The proposed change provides reciprocity and may also help relieve a general shortage of engineering skills in Australia.
Under the proposed changes, an AP who has been inactive for two years or more will have their accreditation withdrawn, unless they can demonstrate why this should not occur. This would help to ensure that the skills and knowledge of APs is current, generally translating into a better quality of work.
Several recommendations to improve the ACMA’s administration of the scheme are now being implemented. These aim to support APs as they efficiently deliver frequency assignment and interference management of a high standard. The ACMA will now take steps to review and improve frequency assignment documentation.
The focus will be on improving the availability and accessibility of relevant documentation online. A new audit system for Interference Impact Certificates is also being developed, with a similar approach to that used for Frequency Assignment Certificates.
Comments closed on Monday 28 February 2011.
More information about the current consultation phase and submission details are available on the ACMA website.
The performance of fixed-line providers Telstra, Optus, AAPT and Primus improved in 2009–10, according to a new ACMA report.
The Telecommunications Performance Bulletin 2009–10 provides commentary and analysis on fixed-line performance data in four areas:
- The customer service guarantee (CSG) is designed to encourage service improvement and guard against poor service. In 2009–10, connection and fault repair performance by all four providers was at or above the ACMA’s benchmark of 90 per cent, while compensation payments were lower than in 2008–09.
- Priority assistance (PA) is a service to help people with diagnosed life-threatening medical conditions. PA customers are entitled to faster connection and fault repair of their telephone service and a greater level of reliability. Compared to 30 June 2009, there was a 7.8 per cent increase in the number of PA customers, and Telstra’s connection performance in urban and rural areas remained above the ACMA’s 90 per cent benchmark.
- Under the universal service obligation (USO), Telstra must ensure that everyone in Australia has reasonable access to payphones on an equitable basis. During 2009–10, there was a net decrease of 8.1 per cent in the number of Telstra-operated payphones, in line with a steady fall in recent years. Telstra’s national fault repair performance in urban and rural areas remained above the ACMA’s 80 per cent benchmark; however, performance in remote areas remained well below this figure.
- The network reliability framework (NRF) monitors performance and aims to improve the reliability of Telstra’s telephone network. Nationally, while the percentage of services experiencing faults has increased, the average time taken to restore these faults has improved by more than nine hours to 42 hours since 2008–09.
ACMA Chairman Chris Chapman said that while the overall performance results for 2009–10 are positive, the ACMA is still looking for performance improvements on some consumer safeguards, particularly in rural and remote areas.
Parliament recently passed the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill 2010, which considerably strengthens the ACMA’s powers to enforce compliance with consumer safeguards for fixed-line services in Australia.
The Telecommunications Performance Bulletin 2009–10 is available on the ACMA website.
The ACMA is reviewing the guidelines relating to its enforcement powers under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (the BSA) and has released a discussion paper to seek public comment on the proposed changes.
The guidelines explain the types of enforcement action available to the ACMA under certain provisions of the BSA, including remedies for breaches by licensees of the conditions of their broadcasting licence.
The ACMA’s proposed changes include outlining:
- the factors that it may consider in determining the appropriate compliance and enforcement response. These factors may include:
- whether the conduct was deliberate, inadvertent or reckless
- whether the conduct has caused, or may cause, detriment to another person
- whether the conduct involved systemic issues
- whether the regulated entity has been the subject of prior enforcement and/or compliance action
- the compliance history and culture of the regulated entity
- whether any action has been taken to remedy and address the consequences of the conduct
- the educative or deterrent effect of taking enforcement action
- the circumstances in which the ACMA may give a licensee who has breached, or is breaching, a condition of the licence, a remedial direction directing them to take action to stop the breach, or to ensure the breach does not occur in future. The revised guidelines discuss what type of action the ACMA may specify in a remedial direction and the factors relevant to the time it specifies for compliance
- its approach to instituting civil proceedings. The ACMA has a broad discretion to decide whether, taking into account the circumstances of the matter, it should commence civil proceedings. The revised guidelines set out the factors that the ACMA will consider when determining whether to commence civil proceedings
- its general practice for publishing compliance and enforcement action and outcomes. Generally, the ACMA will publish such information; however, there may be circumstances in which it is not appropriate to publish. These factors are also set out in the revised guidelines.
The ACMA made the existing guidelines in February 2007 after the BSA was amended to give it an enhanced range of enforcement powers.
Submissions in response to the discussion paper closed on 18 February 2011.
The discussion paper is available on the ACMA website.
The ACMA has accepted an enforceable undertaking from Virgin Blue Airlines that commits the company to a thorough overhaul and independent assessment of its email marketing practices.
The ACMA investigated Virgin Blue following complaints from customers who continued to receive commercial emails even after they tried to unsubscribe from the company’s mailing list.
ACMA Chairman Chris Chapman warned that businesses who use email marketing must regularly test that the unsubscribe function is working properly.
‘The Spam Act requires that a request from a consumer to be unsubscribed from commercial emails must be addressed. No further commercial electronic messages are allowed to be sent to the consumer five working days after an unsubscribe request is made.’
Virgin Blue has acknowledged that it experienced problems with its email marketing systems, and will engage an independent third party to thoroughly assess its processes and implement any recommended changes. It will also provide training to relevant employees, establish a complaints-handling policy and audit 10 per cent of its email marketing campaigns monthly for a year. As part of the undertaking, Virgin Blue has also made payment of $110,000.
Complaints about spam can be made at www.spam.acma.gov.au or by calling 1300 855 180.
The enforceable undertaking provided by Virgin Blue is available on the ACMA website.
An ACMA investigation has found that four television stations breached the provisions of the Children’s Television Standards (CTS) that restrict the repetition of advertising in a children’s ‘C’ program period. Three Network Ten stations and Channel Seven Brisbane broadcast a Streets Paddle Pop Lick-a-Prize advertisement multiple times in children’s programs.
The licensees have undertaken a range of measures to ensure future compliance, including staff training sessions and implementing new procedures.
Additionally, the investigation raised issues about the correct interpretation of competitions and premiums, and whether they should be treated as separate requirements. The ACMA considers that the offer of a chance to win prizes by purchasing a product or service may be both a competition and a premium offer.
It concluded that, in this advertisement, the chance to win prizes being offered with the purchase of a Paddle Pop was a premium offer and that the advertisement’s reference to the competition during the broadcast of a children’s program was more than merely incidental.
However, in the circumstances of this investigation, the ACMA did not record breach findings for the use of premium offers. This was because broadcasters should first have the opportunity to implement appropriate processes and systems as a result of the findings.
More generally, the ACMA has advised Free TV and other stakeholders of the key findings of the investigation—particularly its interpretation of how to comply when advertising premium offers to children. The ACMA will also be updating its guide to the CTS to reflect the fact that a competition can also be a premium offer.
The ACMA’s Children Television Standards 2009 and guidance notes and the full investigation reports are available on the ACMA website.
|Program title||Series||Episode description||Program style||Program type||Country of origin||
|Kitchen Whiz||1||KW01/01–KW01/65||Live action||
|Australia||New||PRC||26/11/2010||Ambience Entertainment Pty Ltd|
|Lightning Point||1||1–13||Live action||Drama—series||Australia||New||CD||05/11/2010||Jonathan M. Shiff Productions Pty Ltd|
|Me and My Monsters||1||14–26||
|Drama–series||Australia||New||CD||22/11/2010||Sticky Pictures Pty Ltd|
|The Woodlies||1||101–126||Animation||Drama–series||Australia||New||PRC||02/11/2010||Avrill Stark Entertainment Pty Ltd|
|Light entertainment—variety||Australia||New||P||22/12/2010||Network Ten Pty Ltd|
|Yamba’s Playtime: Yamba's Christmas Surprise||N/A||N/A||Live action||Other program||Australia||New||P||09/11/2010||Imparja Television Pty Ltd|
CD—C Drama, PRC—Provisional C, PRP—Provisional P, P—P Classification, C—C Classification. A classification expires five years after the date it was granted or renewed.
|State||Licence area||Licensee||Community served||Frequency||Start||Finish||Allocated|
|WA||Laverton RA1||Tjuma Pulka (Media) Aboriginal Corporation||Indigenous||96.5 MHz||17/12/10||16/12/11||03/11/10|
|WA||Leonora RA1||Tjuma Pulka (Media) Aboriginal Corporation||Indigenous||92.1 MHz||17/12/10||16/12/11||03/11/10|
|WA||Menzies RA1||Tjuma Pulka (Media) Aboriginal Corporation||Indigenous||99.7 MHz||17/12/10||16/12/11||03/11/10|
|Vic.||Kilmore RA1||Mitchell Community Radio Inc.||General||98.3 MHz||01/12/10||30/11/11||09/11/10|
|Vic.||Wodonga RA1||Albury Wodonga Christian Broadcasters Inc.||Religious—Christian||98.5 MHz||01/12/10||30/11/11||09/11/10|
|Vic.||Kinglake RA1||Upper Goulburn Community Radio Inc.||General||94.5 MHz||04/12/10||28/02/11||29/11/10|
|Vic.||Kinglake RA1||Kinglake Ranges Radio Inc.*||General||94.5 MHz||01/03/11||28/02/12||29/11/10|
|Qld||Gin Gin RA1||Gin Gin Community Broadcasters Inc.||General||104.9 MHz||01/01/11||31/12/11||29/11/10|
|NSW||Murwillumbah RA2||Tweed Coast Community Radio Inc.||General||101.3 MHz||01/01/11||31/12/11||10/12/10|
* Licence period varied