Why entities must strive to comply despite the ever-changing regulatory landscape
COMMENT | RHONAH NUWAKUNDA | In most markets across the world now, regulatory compliance has become a major aspect of every business entity that intends to effectively and successfully operate over time. There is more vigilance both on the part of regulators and the entities they regulate. Most regulators have established laws and policies that place a higher compliance burden on the businesses that operate in the markets they regulate, and being aware of the very serious implications of non-compliance, the regulated entities have responded by paying very close elaborate attention to what their obligations are under the existing regulatory framework.
Any business that has a footprint in several countries across the globe therefore must contend with a wide range of realities which are unique to the different jurisdictions in which it operates. Similarly, local enterprises too must wade their way through the regulatory requirements that exist in the country. Each market runs on a different legal and policy regime instituted by the respective regulator(s) as well as the dynamics of audience disparities not only in tastes and preferences, but also in what is traditionally deemed acceptable by that society.
The terms and conditions that different jurisdictions place on issuance of operator licenses to businesses vary depending on the objectives of the regulating body. The objectives will largely be informed by the varying economic dynamics and cultural nuances of the different markets which will require organisations to continually evolve as these change.
Considering these complexities, every responsible corporate citizen and business should take the regulatory framework seriously and always seek to meet the policy compliance requirements and standards whether it be in a single country or across markets.
If a business is a multinational that is present in numerous markets, then it will find itself in a unique position where it must meet standards both nationally and internationally. In this circumstance, most entities will seek to align with the higher or more stringent standard in order to meet most of the obligations across the board. For example, many markets have differing provisions for data protection and privacy. If the higher standard however remains the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), then it becomes more effective to align with the GDPR since in so doing, a business is more likely to have complied with the less stringent obligations in the other markets it operates in.
Where there are no established policies or guidelines, and the regulator allows for a consultative process, businesses must take keen interest in participating in the policy shaping consultation. Where no such process exists or the present policy is restrictive, then great care must be taken to acquire a deep understanding of what the regulatory obligations are, and to plan on developing risk mitigation measures that will ensure that the regulated entities do not remain exposed to what could potentially be very severe repercussions resulting from non-compliance. In addition to this, the regulatory risk mitigation plans and processes must be continuously updated and reviewed to keep up with the dynamic market changes and developments as they unfold.
In the case of Pay-TV service providers for example, the evolution of TV entertainment world over has changed the landscape – for both content and regulation. There is more and more content that’s being churned out that might increasingly conflict with interests of certain audiences and regulators. Additionally, the changing broadcasting platforms and technologies have in the recent past triggered regulatory reforms in many jurisdictions.
At a business level, different entities must undertake varied measures to identify and isolate the potential impact of regulatory risks to the business. However, every organisation’s success or failure is immensely hinged on its people. As such, staff also need to be kept in the loop of what the regulatory compliance obligations are, and how each one’s day to day work plugs into the ability of that business to meet or not meet these obligations. It is imperative to let the people in the organisation know and understand the seriousness of their input into compliance and the implications both for them individually and to the business entity should the regulatory obligations not be met.
It is also critical that the “tone from the top” is clearly aligned to establishing a business culture that encourages and supports regulatory compliance. The senior management teams and the Board of Directors must therefore be seen to be demonstrating their willingness, (and therefore the willingness of the business entity) to meet the existing compliance obligations as much as they possibly can.
In the event that for whatever reason a business is not able to meet its compliance obligations, the critical role of stakeholder engagement will kick in. Every business must understand the importance of constantly and effectively engaging with its regulator because more often than not, both the business and the regulator want the same thing, and that thing is to come up with a solution that will lead to compliance. An effective engagement with the regulator will commonly yield a solution workable for both parties.
Rhonah Nuwakunda is Regional Regulatory Compliance Manager (Northern Region), MultiChoice Africa.