From Monopolies, Virtual Monopolies and Oligopolies to ... What? Media Policy and Convergence in South Africa and the United Kingdom

Collins, Richard
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LINK Centre, University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), Johannesburg
This paper reviews recent legislative and regulatory developments in South Africa and the United Kingdom, notably the South African Draft Convergence Bill and the UK’s Communications Act 2003. The author considers these in the context of an international trend of legislating for “convergence” and focuses on the status of Internet regulation in both national jurisdictions. The argument is in favour of a regime of “general authorisation” of entry to electronic communication markets, rather than entry conditional on specific conditions of licence. The consequences of such an argument are explored in the context of South Africa. By considering John Rawls’s arguments for “justice as fairness”, the author assesses the impact of such policy alternatives on equity and universal service; and concludes that Rawls’s arguments, while powerful and in some important respects persuasive, presume a fixed quantum of resources and do not, therefore, apply well to telecommunications. The conclusion is that Rawlsian arguments are insufficiently sensitive to the effects of the “network externality” and the opportunities presented by innovative tariffing, and that their application to problems of communications equity can thus lead to sub-optimal outcomes.
Collins, R. (2004). From monopolies, virtual monopolies and oligopolies to… What? Media policy and convergence in South Africa and the United Kingdom. The Southern African Journal of Information and Communication (SAJIC), 5, 23-39.