Australia’s media watchdog chairman Nerida O’Loughlin will serve for another two years as the federal government progresses with its review of the way the commercial television and radio sector are regulated.
The federal government has reappointed O’Loughlin as chair of the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) until 2024, an extension of her five-year term, which was set to expire next week.
Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said O’Loughlin had made a significant contribution to the sector in her five-year term, particularly with handling misinformation and disinformation on digital platforms and protecting Australians from scams.
“Her work to support media and communications organisations during the pandemic was invaluable,” Rowland said. “Ms O’Loughlin is a professional of great experience and is trusted both within government and industry, and I look forward to working collaboratively with her in her capacity as ACMA chair.”
ACMA is responsible for regulation of Australia’s television, radio and telecommunications networks, as well as online content. It oversees a co-regulatory regime which was established by the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 and requires broadcasters to develop industry codes of practice that establish content safeguards for their TV and radio audiences. The codes do not cover streaming services such as Netflix, Stan and Disney+.
The authority’s work is often behind the scenes, unless it involves the review of a complaint from a listener or viewer about a particular broadcast. It is currently finalising a review into a two-part ABC documentary that focused on US cable giant Fox News and its role in the 2020 US election.
Since her appointment in 2017, O’Loughlin has established a taskforce to tackle mobile scams, regulated the spread of misinformation and disinformation on platforms such as YouTube and Facebook, and allocated billions of dollars in spectrum to telco providers.
But in the same period, the media watchdog has come under fire from senators and former prime ministers over claims it is toothless and has little power to regulate the media and telecommunications sector. Its powers were scrutinised last year by the Morrison government’s media diversity inquiry, which looked at the suspension of Sky News’ YouTube account.