A regulatory authority is an important element of broadcasting and has a role to play in protecting media freedom. But that protection requires a commitment to impartiality, independence, and transparency.
By Desilon Daniels
While broadcast regulators can look differently across the world, they should primarily aim to act in the interest of the public. This public service can look like the protection of children’s interests, such as in New Zealand where its regulator, the Broadcasting Standards Authority, has set out standards that ensure “children can be protected from broadcasts which might adversely affect them.” Broadcast regulators can also protect the media market from unfair competition and the threats of monopolisation, encourage cultural identity, and act as mediators between broadcasters and the publics they serve.
But strong governance mechanisms are necessary if broadcast regulators are to adequately meet public service goals. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is an example of an effective broadcast regulator, with mechanisms in place to better insulate its independence from political and private interests. Its independent Commission “operates at arm’s length from the federal government” and oversees the regulation and supervision of broadcasting and telecommunications in the public interest. The Commission reports to Parliament through the Minister of Canadian Heritage. “As an independent organization, the CRTC works to serve the needs and interests of citizens, industries, interest groups and the government,” the regulator says.