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Research program

Our research provides evidence that informs our decisions. It helps us to better understand communications and media markets and the issues that matter to Australian consumers.

Purpose

The ACMA has statutory obligations to report to, and advise, the Minister for Communications, Cybersafety and the Arts, as well as to inform industry and the public in relation to telecommunications, radiocommunications, broadcasting and some online services. The ACMA’s research program assists in meeting our statutory obligations and supports making regulatory decisions informed by evidence.

This program provides the strategic context for our research activities for the 2019 to 2020 financial year and is aligned to the ACMA’s Corporate plan 2019–20. Updates to the program will occur as our research requirements evolve in accordance with changing external and organisational priorities.

Legislative basis for our research

This research focus assists us to fulfil the regulatory functions outlined in the Australian Communications and Media Authority Act 2005 (the ACMA Act) and legislation related to our telecommunications, radiocommunications, broadcasting and online content functions. This requires us to:

  • report to and advise the Minister in relation to the telecommunications industry and on matters affecting consumers or proposed consumers of carriage services (paragraphs 8(1)(c) and (d) of the ACMA Act)
  • make available to the public information about matters relating to the telecommunications industry (paragraph 8(1)(g) of the ACMA Act)
  • monitor and report to the Minister each year on significant matters relating to the performance of telecommunications carriers and carriage service providers (section 105 of the Telecommunications Act 1997)
  • report to and advise the Minister in relation to the radiocommunications community (paragraph 9(c) of the ACMA Act)
  • make available to the public information about matters relating to the radiocommunications community (paragraph 9(e) of the ACMA Act)
  • conduct or commission research into community attitudes on issues relating to programs and datacasting content (paragraph 10(1)(h) of the ACMA Act)
  • inform ourselves and advise the Minister on technological advances and service trends in the broadcasting industry, internet industry and datacasting industry (paragraph 10(1)(n) of the ACMA Act)
  • report to, and advise the Minister in relation to the broadcasting industry, internet industry and datacasting industry (paragraph 10(1)(q) of the ACMA Act)
  • periodically review the operation of program standards and codes of practice to assess whether they are in accordance with community standards (subsection 123(1) of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992)
  • conduct and/or commission research into issues relating to unsolicited commercial electronic messages and address-harvesting software (paragraph 42(b) of the Spam Act 2003)
  • conduct and/or commission research into issues relating to unsolicited telemarketing calls and unsolicited marketing faxes (paragraph 41(b) of the Do Not Call Register Act 2006)
  • conduct research into a wide range of spectrum matters and matters relating to radiocommunications in accordance with section 303 of the Radiocommunications Act 1992
  • develop datacasting codes of practice taking into account any relevant research conducted by the ACMA (Schedule 6—Part 4, clause 28(b)(ii) of the Broadcasting Services Act)

Strategic context for research

Australia’s transition to a globally connected, internet-enabled communications economy and society will be driven by a massive increase in the number of network connections and connected devices, along with the services, applications and digital content generated over those connections.

To reflect the ACMA’s remit, our research and data tracking projects have been organised to span four interconnected horizontal layers of the communications services and activities. Given the deeply interconnected nature of these layers, research projects will necessarily span across different layers. These layers are illustrated below, with the grey bars representing enduring policy objectives identified in the 2017 Review of the Australian Communications and Media Authority, and which draw upon previous work done by the ACMA on enduring concepts in media and communications in Australia. 

Figure 1: Interconnected layers of communications services and activities by enduring policy objectives

Interconnected layers of communications services and activities by enduring policy objectives

Underpinning these four layers is a focus on how current and future developments in the communications and media landscape will impact public interest outcomes and our role in regulating communications and media, where research may contribute to:

  • advice to government about the operation and costs of regulation
  • regulatory and program design, including the development of fit-for purpose regulatory solutions to emerging issues in communications and media
  • analysis of how regulation is functioning in changing markets to consider if it remains fit-for-purpose or if there is a need to initiate discussion about regulatory reform to accommodate innovation occurring in the sector
  • exploring different aspects of regulatory effectiveness and the emerging risks and harms arising for citizens and businesses in the changing communications and media environment
     

Our research program ensures that we are well informed as a regulator, so we can assess whether and how to intervene when issues arise.

Research and data collection

The ACMA seeks to be trusted by the Australian community as an expert, independent and effective regulator operating in the public interest, with research and data used as an evidence base for decision making and to ensure we are up to date on market developments and consumer trends.

The ACMA commissions independent market research agencies to undertake consumer surveys on consumption of media and communication services, and other related topics as required. Data is also sourced through third-party data subscriptions to gain broader insights and for trend analysis.

The ACMA gathers intelligence and insights to understand the markets we regulate and industry characteristics. Information is gathered from a range of secondary sources with reference to current literature and the implementation of relevant regulation in other jurisdictions through reviews and audits. Analysis of data from third-party tools is also conducted.

The data gathered by the ACMA from statutory media and communications industry reporting and monitoring of industry compliance with obligations and rules is also used to report on matters relating to the communications industry, including performance.

As part of a multi-disciplinary approach to regulatory analysis, the ACMA also draws on economic, engineering and legal expertise.

Economics analysis underpins the assessment of regulatory costs and benefits and informs resource valuation and pricing activities.

Figure 2: Types of data and research used by the ACMA

Types of data and research used by the ACMA

Planned research projects

Infrastructure, transport and devices layer

In this area of work, we focus on understanding the communications infrastructure and services that underpin and shape adoption of technology in an interconnected environment.

Table 1: Planned projects—infrastructure, transport and devices

2019-20 research projects Why the ACMA is doing this work
Technology studies to inform spectrum outlook Our ongoing technology studies support the five-year spectrum outlook/annual work program and provide an understanding of technology and market changes likely to affect future spectrum demand.
5G market study

This project is designed to give the ACMA updates on the emerging 5G market, including a sense of the providers, business models and offerings to customers.

It is expected that this work will be used to support allocation and licensing decisions.

Wholesale service markets

This project is designed to give the ACMA an opportunity to analyse developments and trends related to the provision of wholesale access to communications services.

It is expected that this work will be used to support allocation and licensing decisions.

Applications/content and devices layer

In this area of work, we focus on measuring consumer experience with accessing communications networks and the delivery of media and communications services. We also aim to understand the devices, platforms and applications used to consume content within the changing media and communications landscape.

Table 2: Planned projects—applications/content and devices

2019-20 research projects Why the ACMA is doing this work
Communications report 2018–19 This report will present the latest intelligence, trend data and ACMA commentary on issues relating to the communications and media market in Australia. It will address a number of legislative functions, including our role under the ACMA Act to report on the telecommunications industry and consumers of carriage services, service and industry trends in the broadcasting and internet industries, and content services. 
News—transparency, distinguishability and impartiality

Using a range of research methods, this research will explore whether current community safeguards are delivering news and journalistic content that meets community expectations and supports an open, diverse democracy in Australia. 

The ACMA will undertake in-depth research in relation to various aspects of news and journalistic content, including localism, impartiality, diversity of voices and the distinguishability and disclosure of paid news content.

These concepts are central to the broadcasting codes of practice and other elements of the regulatory framework (including co-regulation) that govern news and current affairs in Australia.

Gambling advertising research

In May 2017, the Australian Government announced a package of reforms, which included restrictions on gambling advertising during coverage of live sporting events on broadcast and online platforms. The new gambling advertising rules are in place and the ACMA is monitoring their operation. To inform the monitoring process and our new responsibilities, the ACMA is conducting a program of research that includes:

  • audience data gathering and analysis, and advertising approaches and practices
  • qualitative and quantitative research about community behaviours in relation to the consumption of live sport, attitudes to children’s exposure to gambling advertising and awareness/perceptions about the new regulations 
Telco consumer experience research

This consumer research will assist with understanding consumer expectations and experience and use of telecommunications (voice and internet) services.

The research will examine and provide insight into current and emerging issues of consumer concern and detriment.

Consumer use of digital Communications—the
annual consumer survey

This quantitative research project provides an information base to support time-series tracking of patterns of consumer communications and media use for the communications report and for other in-depth research snapshot releases.

This will inform regulatory development by providing an evidence base on consumer behaviour, adoption of and attitudes towards media and communications services, and effectiveness of existing regulatory interventions.

This survey assists in addressing the legislative function under the ACMA Act to report on the telecommunications industry and consumers of carriage services, service and industry trends in the broadcasting and internet industries and content services.

Research snapshots

A series of short reports on a range of topics on consumer use of and access to communications and media services topics include:

  • Mobile-only in Australia
  • Kids and mobiles

Regulatory best practice and development

We administer existing legislation and work with industry and the community to solve new concerns arising in the evolving communications and content environment.

In this area of work we continue our analysis of the effectiveness, costs and benefits of current regulation as it relates to each of the enabling layers of the communications environment. It includes identification of emerging issues and problems that may require regulatory or non-regulatory solutions, and where regulation may be adapted to address contemporary communications and media issues.

Table 3: Planned projects—regulatory best practice and development

2019-20 research projects Why the ACMA is doing this work
Intelligence technologies in the media and communications sector

This work is exploring artificial intelligence (AI) technologies deployment across communications and media businesses and anticipated regulatory implications.

Understanding how regulation is being impacted by disruptive technologies and whether it remains fit-for-purpose is key to addressing these challenges and meeting the needs and expectations of consumers, audiences and spectrum users.

Internet of Things (IoT) roadmap

This work is exploring the ACMA’s touchpoints and the intersection of its regulatory remit with IoT and how the ACMA is enabling this.

It will inform the ACMA’s regulatory approach to IoT. The project is also building engagement with industry and government on the effectiveness of the current regulatory framework.

ACMA stakeholder surveys

We survey our stakeholders as one mechanism to engage with them, and as part of our regulator performance framework reporting obligations.

The Customer Service Centre Survey is conducted annually to explore satisfaction with the service offered among recent customers.

The ACMA Stakeholder Survey is conducted on a biennial basis to explore how well the ACMA and staff communicate, consult and interact with stakeholders as well as the extent to which the ACMA’s published work is of value to our stakeholders.

Research to support the implementation of the spectrum pricing review This project is designed to support the ACMA in making decisions about implementing the government’s Spectrum Pricing Review.

Search our research reports (search for type: report and category: research).

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