The Australian Communications and Media Authority is the independent statutory authority tasked with ensuring most elements of Australia's media and communications legislation1, related regulations, and numerous derived standards and codes of practice operate effectively and efficiently, and in the public interest.
The ACMA is also a 'converged' regulator, created to bring together the threads of the evolving communications universe, specifically in the Australian context the convergence of the four 'worlds' of telecommunications, broadcasting, radiocommunications and the internet. The ACMA was formed on 1 July 2005 by a merger of the responsibilities of the Australian Broadcasting Authority and the Australian Communications Authority. It was created, at least in part, to respond to the observed and anticipated changes brought about by this convergence and is one of only a handful of converged communications regulators in the world.
With its mission positioned across the components of the converged landscape, the agency has the strategic purpose of making media and communications work in Australia's public interest, as the various scenarios of convergence emerge. It has set a self-imposed standard, expressed as: 'To be, and be recognised as, the world's best converged communications regulator.'
Congruent with its converged nature, the ACMA bridges a diverse collection of legislated objectives. The agency has responsibilities under four principal acts: the Radiocommunications Act, the Telecommunications Act, the Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Service Standards) Act and the Broadcasting Services Act. There are another 22 Acts to which the agency responds in areas such as spam, the Do Not Call Register, and interactive gambling.
The ACMA also creates and administers more than 523 legislative instruments including radiocommunications, spam and telecommunications regulations, and licence area plans for free-to-air broadcasters. An important aspect of the agency's work is to collect just over $688 million in taxes and levies on behalf of the Australian Government, making it the third largest collector of taxes and levies behind the Australian Taxation Office and the Australian Customs Service.
The ACMA strives to maintain a robust relationship with the government of the day in terms of its three major heads of functional responsibility. These are to:
- Discharge its regulatory functions under legislation-and pursuant to ministerial direction as given and consistent with the Portfolio Budget Statement (PBS) mandate-in an independent and impartial fashion.
- Deliver specific programs and activities in an accountable fashion to agreed outcomes and benchmarks, for example, setting up and supervising the Do Not Call Register, delivering cybersafety programs and administering the National Relay Service, where the government (represented by its portfolio department the Department of Communications and the Arts) is the client.
- Render objective and independent advice to government, as requested by the minister or the Department, in matters related to areas of ACMA responsibility and expertise, for example, in internet content filtering and spectrum management.
In terms of geography, the ACMA operates on a continent that has some unique characteristics that have influenced (and continue to influence) media and communications marketplace dynamics. Australia has a high concentration of its population living in urban areas-about 65 per cent of the population lives in an area that is just 0.5 per cent of the continent-while at the other extreme, 10 per cent of the population is spread across 93 per cent of the landmass.
 It should be noted that the carriage of key economic aspects (competition policy, pricing and access regimes) of telecommunications regulation is in the hands of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) - which plays a complementary role to the ACMA with respect to these aspects of the media and communications space.