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UPDATE: NZ regulations need to be technology agnostic: Adams

UPDATE: NZ regulations need to be technology agnostic, Adams says

By Paul McBeth

Aug. 27 (BusinessDesk) - Communications and Broadcasting Minister Amy Adams wants to drag New Zealand's regulatory framework away from being technology specific in a wide-ranging review of the digital sector and its growing entanglement with other industries, most notably content distribution.

Adams is seeking feedback on two papers released today, one to review whether New Zealand's laws and regulations are fit-for-purpose when it comes to the relationship between telecommunications and broadcasting, and the other on how content is regulated as traditional distribution through radio and television loses viewers to an online audience.

"I think it's incumbent on us as government to be testing our settings, our thinking, and our processes through this lens of convergence," Adams told BusinessDesk. "It seems to me a nonsense that when we're talking about standards and classifications and rules, the very same programme would have an entirely different legal framework to comply with if you're watching it on old school broadcast TV, or if you're watching exactly the same content online or streaming.

"It really shouldn't matter what piece of glass you're viewing it through and yet our frameworks are built around technology types," she said.

The digital convergence green paper sets out the programme for further work, which includes reviews of the regulatory framework for content classification, telecommunications and radio spectrum regime, whether infrastructure is needed to be developed to support convergence, a refresh of the cyber strategy plan, how GST applies to online services, a study of copyright in the creative sector, and the data futures partnership.

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Adams said she has increasingly come across instances of "clear misalignment between old school and online platforms" that were part of the digital convergence, and that New Zealand's regulatory settings weren't keeping up with the pace of technological change.

As that leads to companies competing in new sectors, such as telecommunications firms entering the content market, government has to avoid leading the change while at the same time managing any inequities that develop, she said.

In recent years, online content companies, internet service providers and traditional broadcasters have been pressing the government to take the issue of convergence more seriously as the roll-out of ultrafast broadband accelerated the crossover between the sectors.

Adams said the content regulation paper was a core part of the convergence work and will focus on content classification and standards, inconsistences between the broadcasting and electoral acts, advertising restrictions, and supporting local content.

Content "was the most obvious example where convergence is impacting these things," she said. "We do need to be able to have that overarching view, we're seeing Spark providing content services, we're seeing TVNZ and the like increasingly going online, that line of demarcation is shrinking if not disappearing."


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