The ACMA response to change: maintaining relevance while constantly improving performance | ACMA

The ACMA response to change: maintaining relevance while constantly improving performance

Chris Chapman, Chair and CEO of the Australian Communications and Media Authority, today released the fourth iteration of its report, .The ACMA – meeting our standard

The ACMA standard, “To be, and be recognised as, a world-leading, best-practice converged communications regulator”, has been a key part of the ACMA’s long term transformation and business planning activities.

From the inception of the ACMA a decade ago, convergence, digitalization and the evolving networked society have created constant pressures for change within the many media and communications’ sectors.

‘A primary strategic question for the agency has been how it could maintain its relevance in this ever-changing environment?’ Mr Chapman said. ‘Meeting this challenge has entailed a transformation of the agency’s strategy, culture and structure, in no small part by seeking to drive the organisation towards world-leading, best practice performance.’

This fourth narrative report continues the process of maturation in the assessment of the standing of the agency with regard to its standard, representing a compendium of the ACMA’s performance against that strategic imperative.

The report identifies a total of 105 areas of activity across the agency. Of these, 54 are included as case studies of world-leading or best practice performance. A further 21 are presented as “sustaining” world-leading performance, in terms of the agency meeting internal KPIs, doing more with less, delivering “fit for purpose” regulation or delivering continuous improvement outcomes.

The ACMA’s rigorous self-assessment (supplemented by international comparison where relevant and in many instances by external peer review) is that across the whole organisation and the associated case studies, this fourth narrative report suggests that the ACMA continues to make sound progress against its strategic intent of being a world-leading, best practice converged communications regulator.

‘I feel this fourth narrative report again offers all its stakeholders some informed insights about the ACMA’s progress against its strategic intent of being a world-leading, best practice converged communications regulator,’ Mr Chapman said.

‘Given that strategic vision, the ACMA has demonstrated capability and, importantly, the energy to maintain this performance and to continue delivering against the standard of performance that it expects of itself, and the government and other stakeholders naturally expect of it.’

The ACMA invites feedback on its performance, as showcased in this fourth iteration of its Meeting our Standard narrative.

For more information see Backgrounder below or to arrange an interview, please contact: Emma Rossi, Media Manager, (02) 9334 7719, 0434 652 063 or

Media release 67/2015 - 18 December


From the inception of the ACMA, convergence, digitalization and the evolving digital economy and networked society have created constant pressures for change within the many media and communications sectors. The primary strategic question for the agency has been how to sustain its relevance in this ever-changing environment so as to continue to contribute to the national interest.

The ACMA accepted early that a shift from the traditional regulatory stance was needed, requiring the capacity and capability to be agile, innovative and flexible. It was clear that success for the agency would be shaped by:

  • adopting a clear, shared purpose: “To make communications and media work in Australia’s public interest”
  • meeting a self-imposed standard: “To be, and be recognised as, a world-leading,  best-practice converged communications regulator”
  • transforming itself into a resilient, externally-facing, learning organisation, responsive to these numerous pressures for change.

As outlined in the 2015 Future Builders Group summary of the ACMA’s transformation journey, 2nd order transformation, meeting this challenge has entailed the adoption of adaptive leadership through five key principles:

1. an implicit understanding of complex adaptive systems;
2. acceptance that there was no clear “future state”
3. understanding the different organisational requirements for “business as usual” (the “day job”) vs ‘innovation and adaptation’ (transformation) behaviours
4. adapting a “first principles” approach to infusing that transformation and, more generally, managing the agency
5. embracing 2nd order transformation, in which the change process is itself continuously changing.

The ACMA transformation is not the textbook account of a shift from “present state” to “future state”. It is ongoing and can be considered a transformation in the way that transformation occurs.

A copy of the full Future Builders case study from 2013, A Quest for Stained Relevance: building a resilient organisation in the face of constant change, is available here.

Meeting our standard

The fourth iteration of The ACMA—Meeting our Standard narrative continues to use the common ground for valid international comparisons established in the previous editions, using an overarching framework of four primary parts:

  • effective regulation
  • bridging to the future
  • a transformed agency
  • major programs.

These parts all work together for the delivery of public interest outcomes. The narrative integrates a cross-organisational portfolio of activities and provides case studies about where the ACMA is implementing best practice and, equally important, where it is not or where it does not need to.

In assessing the standing of the agency with regard to its standard, the ACMA believes that the organisation demonstrates a critical mass of activities where world-leading or best practice is being achieved. A total of 105 areas of activity are identified in the latest report. Of these, 54 are included as case studies of world leading or best practice performance.

The ACMA believes that the rigorous self-assessment in this fourth narrative report, across the whole organisation and the associated case studies, suggests the ACMA continues to make sound progress against its strategic intent of being a world-leading, best practice converged communications regulator.

The 54 case studies traverse a considerable body of the ACMA’s work, delivering on our "day job" of regulatory activities through to transformational thought leadership, regulatory development, organisational adaptation and continuous improvement They cover the following areas:

Thought leadership

The future of communications and media is being written by the convergence/networked society dynamic. It is critical that any world-class regulatory agency in this space engage with that dynamic, both in terms of sensing and evaluating the environment, and in leading thinking where unique knowledge and perspective give it the competence and a valid platform to do so. To build this competence—as well as to inform its regulatory decisions and to fulfil mandated reporting functions—the ACMA engages in a broadly-based program of research, and publishes the outcomes of that research to inform stakeholders and the market.

Regulatory development

The ACMA aims to be an active contributor to the shape of what might replace the legacy, non-convergent legislative framework. Consistent with that aim, the ACMA has worked to envisage a sustainable regulatory framework and to develop flexible approaches that are responsive to change, particularly refining and developing tools such as co-regulation. The agency maintains a review program to effectively and efficiently manage co-regulatory arrangements for communications and media services.

In line with government policy directions to deliver reform through better regulation, the ACMA is working assiduously to identify and implement initiatives for regulatory reform and red-tape reduction

Transforming the ACMA

The ACMA has deliberately engaged in an active program of organisational transformation to shape a resilient organisation that remains relevant and adapts to the ever-changing environment of media and communications convergence.

The ACMA has built agility, innovation and flexibility through significant investment in facilities and information technology, internal programs such as its "Transformational Leadership Forums", cross-organisational collaboration and organisational learning events.

Major program delivery

As one of its major heads of functional responsibility, the ACMA is tasked to deliver specific government programs and activities to agreed outcomes and benchmarks, where the government—through the Department of Communications and the Arts—is the client. The capacity to deliver major, expected results to high standards is a critical, required competency for a world-class regulatory agency.

Effective regulation

While the ACMA has a transformational agenda to regenerate strategy and fundamentally reshape the agency, it has also remained focused on discharging its day-to-day activities and engaging effectively with stakeholders. It is through these fundamental operational activities that a resilient organisation can demonstrate that it has the required capacity and capability to weather the buffeting of an environment of rapid change and unavoidable fiscal constraint.

The logical consequence of the ACMA developing as a learning organisation is to be continuously engaged in transforming activity to meet any of the scenarios that this environment might deliver. This means functioning successfully within the “legacy paradigm”—doing the “day job”, delivering on key expectations and responding to known key events.

It also means adapting regulatory operations to the emerging demands of the market and responding to the advent of new stakeholders and entirely novel ways of doing business—doing the ‘day job’ from a transformational perspective, adapting to any unexpected turn of events and bridging to the future.

Stakeholder engagement

Given the pace of change in the media and communications environment, the ACMA has observed new and emerging stakeholders and changing roles for established stakeholders. The rapid evolution of communications and the electronic media means that stakeholder issues are fundamentally shifting, as different problems and expectations arise from those posed by the traditional broadcasting and telecommunications industries and their audiences/consumers. Meanwhile, relevant traditional concerns and issues must continue to be addressed.

The ACMA has enhanced interaction with stakeholders through conferences, Tune-ups, advisory committees, Citizen Forums and an overhaul of the ACMA’s web presence and social media engagement.

Continuing adaptation and change

The abiding strategy of the ACMA is to remain relevant in response to ongoing pressures for change – through world-leading, best practice performance and a heightened focus on activities that directly drive public interest outcomes. These factors should drive its performance over the next three years in:

  • implementing the government’s Spectrum Review regulatory policies to provide the ACMA with a simpler and more flexible framework to support the efficient use of spectrum
  • updating its mobile broadband strategy
  • providing "fit for purpose" protection of consumer interests in the transition to the nbn broadband environment
  • working with government to address growing challenges in content safeguards and production support models
  • seeking opportunities for continuous improvement by engaging with stakeholders on the progress and evaluation of regulatory initiatives to reduce regulatory costs over time
  • implementing the agency’s ‘third wave’ of ICT transformation, focused primarily on improving processes and the ‘smart’ use of data – both internally and externally – whilst continuing to reduce red tape and drive efficiencies wherever possible.

Last updated: 16 March 2017