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Next phase of broadcasting review announced

Hon David Cunliffe
Minister for Communications and Information Technology
Hon Trevor Mallard
Minister of Broadcasting

22 September 2008 Media Statement

Embargoed until midday
Next phase of broadcasting review announced

Broadcasting Minister Trevor Mallard and Communications and Information Technology Minister David Cunliffe today announced the next steps in a comprehensive review of regulations covering broadcast, telecommunications and internet media.

The Regulatory Review of Digital Broadcasting looks at whether the current regulatory regime for broadcasting and related sectors needs changing given the increasing convergence between broadcasting, telecommunications and the internet. Public consultation on a discussion document has been held to scope initial views on key issues.

The ministers today released the Cabinet paper summarising the results of that consultation, and announced the next phase of work.

"Digitisation and increasing convergence between broadcasting, telecommunications and the internet are causing profound changes to the ways in which people access and use broadcasting-like content. We need to ensure that our regulatory regime is both current and ‘future-proofed’ to serve the evolving broadcasting markets and to also meet the shifting needs and expectations of New Zealand communities," Trevor Mallard said.

"The initial phase of public consultation crystallized the key issues which now need further scoping and exploration. We have therefore agreed to a significant programme of work to look at the options for tackling the problems that have been identified (see summary of key issues below)," David Cunliffe said.

The new work covers the following areas:

• a review of the current institutional arrangements for regulation of broadcasting and telecommunications, looking at two options: a) single regulatory body or (b) two converged regulators: one dealing with content issues and the other dealing with network issues.

• a competition study to review and address issues around access to premium content (such as sports events of national significance) and access for broadcasters to networks and platforms.

• analysis and development of options for enhancing public service broadcasting including diversity of, and access to local content (eg whether all free-to-air channels should be available on both pay and free-to-air digital platforms), and content standards. Some new media (like internet) are not subject to the same content standards as for example free to air television and radio broadcasters. The next phase of the review will look at options to improve that situation for broadcasting-like content, without stifling the freedom of expression and innovation new technologies can foster.

• other work includes looking at levels of captioning and other possible enhancements for the hearing- and sight-impaired; media literacy; post-analogue-switch-off spectrum policy; and investigation of options for the release of broadcast content that is currently ‘locked up’ because rights holders cannot be identified and/or found.

"The Labour-led government recognises the importance of having a strong public broadcasting presence, including diverse local content which meets the needs of all of our communities. It's important for our culture and for our national identity. This is also an incredibly complex area. This is why it is vitally important that we get the regulatory framework right through more in depth work rather than rushing any changes," the ministers said.

Following this work, any proposed amendments to the current arrangements will be subject to consultation with stakeholders and with the public. The Ministry for Culture and Heritage and Ministry of Economic Development will carry out the work with a report back to Cabinet by 31 August 2009.

Background information – including a summary of the work programme – follows.

Further information, including the Cabinet report-back, is at www.mch.govt.nz and at www.digitalstrategy.govt.nz .

--

Background Information to Regulatory Review of Broadcasting

What were the key issues raised by the consultation phase?
Consultation with the broadcasting sector and the public supported some degree of regulatory change, and identified a number of concerns about the future of free-to-air and public service broadcasters, and of local content in a converged environment.
Divergent views were expressed about the nature and extent of, and preferred solutions to perceived competition issues. Considerably more work is required to fully scope all of the issues identified and to design appropriate regulatory responses if warranted.

• Competition and access issues: A majority of respondents supported some form of specific intervention to address perceived dominance issues in the converging broadcasting market (eg in access to premium content such as high profile sporting events of national significance) and access to particular platforms and networks, and to ensure an open access regime.

• Diversity of local content and the provision of public broadcasting: A majority of respondents agreed that funding bodies need further mechanisms to achieve diversity, maximum visibility and accessibility of publicly funded programmes. There was also general support to re-assess arrangements for delivering public service broadcasting on multiple platforms. There was fairly wide agreement that a single standards regime should apply to "broadcasting-like content" across platforms, but that the regime’s application should be varied according to the nature of the user’s engagement with different platforms.

• Roles, responsibilities and design of regulatory institutions: There was general support for a converged regulator to address economic/access issues, with a separate converged regulator being responsible for social/cultural issues.

• Copyright: Respondents raised concerns about the increased ease of dissemination, copying and accessibility offered by the digital environment impeding the ability of copyright owners and performers to benefit from and control their work. In addition, new platforms and file-sharing technology are requiring new and increasingly complex terms of trade to be negotiated between content producers and broadcasters.

Broadcasting Regulation Review: Summary of new work programme

1. A competition study to consider potential risks to access to premium content and to platforms (Relevant recommendations: 14; 25-28; 41-50)

Actions: Officials to:
• conduct a competition study to address access to premium content and access to platforms and networks for television and related channels. The results of the competition study will inform the investigation of the following specific issues:
· potential tools for a regulator to settle disputes on access to platforms and networks
· encouraging broadcasters and platform operators to carry free-to-air television channels un-encrypted, and to provide a minimum level of information in electronic programme guides . Any further actions to be dependent on the outcome of the competition study and progress on agreements between broadcasters and platform providers

2. Development of options for enhanced public service broadcasting including diversity of local content, and content standards. (Relevant recommendations: 17 – 24; 34-36; 37-40)

Actions: Officials to:
• investigate the application of a content standards regime to broadcasting-like content across delivery platforms, via a converged regulator
• carry out a detailed analysis of options for improving the visibility and impact of publicly funded local content and for strengthening public broadcasting services; including looking at funding arrangements and identifying gaps in the current functions and legislation of agencies
• conduct regular reviews of the role of public service broadcasting, funding for local content and the effectiveness of outcomes
• investigate options for increasing access to historical "orphan works" (ie those for which key right-holders cannot be identified or located)
• investigate the feasibility of a regulator having a brokering role and potentially making determinations, in settling terms of trade between broadcasters and platform providers, funding agencies and content creators
• investigate options for ensuring a higher degree of availability of live and free-to-air sporting events.

3. A review of the current institutional arrangements for regulation of broadcasting and telecommunications (Relevant recommendations: 10 -13)

Note: the final form of the regulator(s) will be subject to its functions. The functions will be determined largely by the results of work under the two headings above.

Actions: Officials to carry out further analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of two institutional options – including impact on and relationships with a range of existing entities – and design work including cost estimates. The two options are:
• a single stand-alone regulator covering all of the above functions for both network and content matters; and
• two converged regulators: one for network and one for content regulation

4. Other areas of work:
• developing a draft policy for spectrum allocation following the switch-off of analogue transmission and developing options to ensure the widest possible range of services, including regional television, are available to rural New Zealanders after analogue switch-off (recommendations 53-59)
• encouraging common technical standards with a potential role for a converged regulator to make recommendations to government on technical standards if necessary (recommendations 51 – 52)
• investigate a role for a converged regulator as a leader and coordinator of media literacy programmes; (recommendations 15 – 16)
• investigate additional services for hearing- and sight-impaired audiences (ie captioning and audio-description) including the possibility of minimum requirements on national television broadcasters (recommendations 29-33).


ENDS

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