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Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Antitrust regulators need to up their game to meet challenges of media convergence, Argentine researchers write in UNESCO paper

Published by UNESCO, a new policy paper from Argentine researchers Mart铆n Becerra and Guillermo Mastrini warns that antitrust regulation must adapt to the convergence of media, telecommunication, and internet to remain effective and preserve people's rights.

Prof. Mastrini

Becerra is a researcher with the National Scientific and Technical Research Council (CONICET), an Argentine government agency, and holds academic appointments at the National University of Quilmes (UNQ) and the University of Buenos Aires (UBA).  Mastrini also serves on the UBA faculty.

The researchers reach the counter-intuitive conclusion that the internet's accessibility to new market entrants, and the ease with which new communication technology should facilitate the balkanization of media services, ironically has worked to concentrate property, revenue, and audience globally.  Thus the role of the regulator is more important than ever, while anachronistic regulatory approaches remain siloed in sectors of disparate expertise.

Prof. Becerra
Becerra and Mastrini rather articulate a "relevant market" approach to organize regulatory authority.  At the same time, they eschew a one-size-fits-all approach to the different problems presented by different entities, namely internet "giants," telecommunication conglomerates, and media companies.  Moreover, the researchers stress that values of access to culture, freedom of expression, and pluralism should be baked into the regulatory framework.

The report is La convergencia de medios, telecomunicaciones e internet en la perspectiva de la competencia: Hacia un enfoque multicomprensivo (my translation: The Convergence of Media, Telecommunication, and Internet from the Perspective of Competition: Toward a Multiple-Understanding Approach) and is published by UNESCO as no. 13 in the series, Discussion Notebooks on Communication and Information, ISSN no. 2301-1424 (2019).  The report is in Spanish and includes an executive summary in translation.  HT @ Observacom.

Here is the executive summary:

The converging qualities of information and communication technologies challenge classic regulatory frameworks when regulating audiovisual media activities, on the one hand, and telecommunications, on the other. The digitalization of communications causes a metamorphosis in the definitions of what each sector encompasses and the emergence of actors that provide products and services and develop businesses in convergent markets simultaneously and in increasingly vast geographical areas.

Regulatory approaches that sought to protect freedom of expression in the media, guarantee access to cultural and informational resources and sustain economic competition to avoid distortion of markets today are being reviewed in light of the new reality of progressive integration and of the growing crosscutting elements within the media, telecommunications and Internet ecosystem. In fact, there are limitations that prevent responding effectively and consistently to the problems raised with the consolidation of the digital revolution.

This policy paper provides analytical tools based on comparative law and inquires about antitrust policies and their relationship with the objective of having diverse and pluralistic communication systems that stimulate public debate in democratic societies. Therefore, it has a multi-understanding approach, since one of its objectives is to facilitate the dialogue of areas that until now have had fields of study, normative translations and institutional expressions separated from each other.

After consulting Latin American regulators in the area of defense of competition, specialists in the region in the field and presenting an updated state of the art of the debate about the relevance of economic competition approaches to seek clear answers for the new problems of a convergent environment in communications, the document makes recommendations with the aim of improving the design of public policies both in the field of information and communication services, and in those that serve economic competition, harmonizing fields and disciplines that were not conceived in an articulated way.

In this context, the policy paper is proposed as an input for public policies and a contribution to optimize the understanding of current phenomena with deep repercussions in the culture, information and communication of societies and individuals.

En espa帽ol:
Las cualidades convergentes de las tecnolog铆as de informaci贸n y comunicaci贸n desaf铆an los encuadres normativos cl谩sicos a la hora de regular las actividades de medios audiovisuales,  por  un  lado,  y  las  de  telecomunicaciones,  por  otro  lado.  La  digitalizaci贸n de las comunicaciones provoca una metamorfosis en las propias definiciones de lo que cada sector abarcaba y el surgimiento de actores que proveen productos y servicios y desarrollan negocios en los mercados convergentes de modo simult谩neo y en 谩mbitos geogr谩ficos cada vez m谩s vastos.

Los enfoques regulatorios que buscaron como objetivos proteger la libertad de expresi贸n en los medios de comunicaci贸n, garantizar el acceso a los recursos culturales e informacionales y sostener la competencia econ贸mica para evitar la distorsi贸n de los mercados hoy est谩n siendo revisados a la luz de la nueva realidad de la progresiva integraci贸n y de los cruces cada vez mayores dentro del ecosistema de medios, telecomunicaciones  e  Internet.  En  efecto,  hay  limitaciones  que  impiden  responder  de manera eficaz y consistente los problemas suscitados con la consolidaci贸n de la revoluci贸n digital.

El presente policy paper provee herramientas de an谩lisis basadas en el derecho comparado e indaga sobre las pol铆ticas antitrust y su relaci贸n con el objetivo de contar con sistemas de comunicaci贸n diversos y plurales que estimulen el debate p煤blico en sociedades democr谩ticas. Por ello es multicomprensivo, dado que uno de sus objetivos es facilitar el di谩logo de 谩reas que hasta el presente han tenido campos de estudio, traducciones normativas y expresiones institucionales separadas entre s铆.

Tras consultar a reguladores latinoamericanos del 谩rea de defensa de la competencia, a especialistas de la regi贸n en la materia y exponer un actualizado estado del arte del debate acad茅mico y de divulgaci贸n acerca de la pertinencia de los enfoques de competencia econ贸mica para satisfacer con respuestas claras los nuevos problemas propios  de  un  entorno  convergente  en  las  comunicaciones,  el  documento  formula  recomendaciones con el objetivo de mejorar el dise帽o de las pol铆ticas p煤blicas tanto en el campo de los servicios de informaci贸n y comunicaci贸n, como en el de las que atienden  a  la  competencia  econ贸mica,  armonizando  campos  y  disciplinas  que  no  fueron concebidos de modo articulado.
En este sentido, el policy paper se propone como un insumo de pol铆ticas p煤blicas y una contribuci贸n para optimizar la comprensi贸n de fen贸menos actuales con hondas repercusiones en la cultura, la informaci贸n y la comunicaci贸n de las sociedades y las personas.

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