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Nerida O’Loughlin locked in to lead media and comms watchdog

Minister for Communications Mitch Fifield has confirmed Nerida O’Loughlin will chair the Australian Media and Communications Authority, as widely expected, about 18 months after she delivered a blueprint for major administrative reform of the watchdog.

The minister said O’Loughlin was appointed for a five-year term on the strength of “extensive policy and regulatory experience within the communications and media sector” as well as “a strong record of leading change management” — most recently as interim chief of the Digital Transformation Agency, during the rocky transitional period between the leadership of Paul Shetler and new CEO Gavin Slater.

“Ms O’Loughlin’s strong skills and experience will enable her to effectively lead the ACMA to ensure it can respond effectively to the challenges of the future communications environment,” Fifield said in the statement released yesterday, confirming earlier reports.

O’Loughlin led the major review of the regulator last year in the Department of Communications and delivered 27 recommendations that were taken up “in principle” immediately by the government.

One consequence is that her deputy chair will play a stronger role than in the past, taking on “primary carriage of day-to-day management and operational issues” as chief executive.

“This will allow the chair more time to focus on strategy, stakeholder management and decision‑making,” according to the government’s response to that review.

The ACMA and the Department of Communications are undertaking a major review of spectrum, which will dominate the agency as it continues to plan for voracious spectrum demand by the telcos to power their 5G services.

The ACMA has also picked up responsibility for managing the new $60 million Regional and Small Publishers Innovation fund, which was reluctantly agreed to by the Government to get its media reform bill passed by the Senate last week.

Fifield says the current deputy chair, James Cameron, will continue acting in that role “pending permanent filling of that position” while the previous acting chair Richard Bean is moving on from ACMA. Bean was deputy under former chair Chris Chapman from 2010 until February, 2016, when he stepped into the top job.

The government is also looking for three new full time members to bolster the Authority. These are expected to be drawn from the broadcasting and telco industries.

Enabling legislation to underpin the administrative changes recommended by O’Loughlin are expected to be introduced this fiscal year.

Author Bio

Stephen Easton

Stephen Easton is a journalist at The Mandarin based in Canberra. He's previously reported for Canberra CityNews and worked on industry titles for The Intermedia Group.