Förderverein Informationstechnik und Gesellschaft

Der australische Kampf gegen die innere Natur des Internet

[In Australien scheinen sich gerade die Ultrahardliner der "Wir- regulieren-das-Internet-wie-den-Rundfunk -Fraktion durchzusetzen. Hoffentlich breitet sich diese Denke nicht weiter aus. --AHH]

NR 101/1999

29 October 1999

Broadcasting, co-regulation and the public good

"National parliaments and industry bodies must work together on schemes of self-regulation and co-regulation for the Internet which sit within a broader framework of international cooperation," said Mr Gareth Grainger, Deputy Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Authority today.

Mr Grainger was delivering the 1999 Spry Memorial Lecture in Vancouver, Canada. Graham Spry was a champion of public broadcasting in Canada and the Graham Spry Fund for Public Broadcasting was created in 1996 in recognition of his work. The purpose of the endowment which created the fund is to sponsor an annual public lecture and related academic activities relevant to the promotion of public broadcasting in Canada. Mr Grainger will also deliver his address in French in Montreal on 2 November.

"Broadcasting and now the Internet make use of public property, the airwaves and bandwidth. Broadcasting remains, and the Internet is clearly emerging as, a means of mass communication of a particularly intrusive nature. They enter our homes and workplaces, exercise important influences on public life and national cultures. Their content has been and remains, the latest research confirms in relation to the Internet, a matter of considerable concern to the public who wish to see national cultures preserved and enriched and to see young people protected from inappropriate material," Mr Grainger said.

"It is essential for policy makers and legislators, as they review existing and prepare new rules for broadcasting and the Internet, to revisit and restate the public interest objectives they believe should apply to those industries and their governance. Sweeping references to ‘the public interest’ may be less effective than a clear articulation of the process concerns that legislators are seeking to advance."

"National parliaments in democratic systems such as those of Australia, the UK, and Canada provide the one legitimate constitutional outlet for public concerns and it is entirely appropriate that, even in an age of increasing internationalisation of broadcasting and now the Internet, it be national parliaments which set the rules for the regulation of these matters within national borders. However, it is equally clear that activities such as the Internet which are heavily transborder in scope must be governed by rules which reflect major developments taking place elsewhere in the world. International discussions are needed, and are occurring right now, to allow governments, industries, users and communities to help shape suitable rules for new media such as the Internet."

"Co-regulatory or self-regulatory schemes for dealing with these issues seem to require the existence of an umpire to oversee the efficient and effective working of these schemes and to deal with public complaints. It is appropriate for such umpires to be given discretion to interpret the public interest objectives of such schemes to decide their application to particular circumstances. Such bodies will be assisted by the clear articulation of the legislature’s public interest objectives to guide the regulator in its efforts to allow the public good in specific cases."

"In relation both to broadcasting, a highly mature industry, and the Internet whose usage is so diffuse, it is apparent that the most appropriate means for dealing with governance issues is through the healthy consultative interaction of governments, regulators, industry and the community in schemes of self-regulation or co-regulation. While legislators may well see industry self-regulation as the sensible direction for communication industry governance to take, it is difficult to see how such schemes will be genuinely effective without some provision for industry umpires and for the safety valve of public complaints processes.

"Whereas in the United States the US Constitution First Amendment allows the free speech lobby to dominate discussion about self- regulation, other countries with healthy democratic systems and vibrant processes of open expression are able to seek a more appropriate balance between the right to free expression and the right of communities to nurture national and local cultures and to protect children from harmful content. There is no one right way for any nation to approach the manner in which we move forward in these issues.

"In Australia we are now endeavouring to place online services on the same footing as broadcasting and are applying a co-regulatory framework governed by important public interest considerations. I believe this has much to commend it. Other nations will make their own decisions on what best meets community and industry needs for this activity. However, I am absolutely convinced that at the end of the twentieth century it is time for all of us who care about these issues to reaffirm our faith in the overriding importance of the public interest to ensure that healthy vibrant communications industries are conducted for the public good."