Digital Convergence Bill captures online content

Broadcasting Minister Amy Adams has announced plans to update the Broadcasting Act with a new Digital Convergence Bill

Broadcasting Minister Amy Adams has announced plans to update the Broadcasting Act with a new Digital Convergence Bill saying the Act needs to better reflect today’s converged market.She has also provided a progress report on the Government’s Convergence work programme, saying it is making excellent progress.

Adams said these moves were designed to ensure New Zealand was well placed to take advantage of an increasingly digital media environment. She said one of the primary drivers of the review had been to address confusion as to whether online content through on-demand sites was subject to the Broadcasting Act, the Film, Videos, and Publications Classification Act (FVPC Act), or not at all.

The Digital Convergence Bill will extend the Broadcasting Act to capture on-demand content and ensure it meets classification and content standards, and make clear that the FVPC Act does not apply. These changes do not affect user-generated content, such as Facebook or YouTube videos and exclude news and current affairs.

It will provide television broadcasters with the right to include advertising on Sunday mornings during significant events, such as major overseas sports events like the Rugby World Cup. Advertising restrictions will remain in place for Good Friday and Easter Sunday, Anzac Day and Christmas Day.

Adams said it was important to ensure legislation remained fit for purpose at a time when New Zealanders can access content anywhere and at any time. “On-demand content is either regulated inconsistently or not at all, which can potentially expose the public to harm, as all content is not subject to the same classification standard.

“The extension to our standards will ensure greater consistency and fairness across the sector, and support continued innovation and growth within the industry. Any regulation should also protect the need of New Zealanders to access diverse, high-quality local and international content.”

She said the Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) would continue to administer the standards system, with its role extended to include on-demand content. “As a trusted public sector agency, I consider the BSA is well placed to take on this expanded role.”

She added: “We also considered the funding mechanisms that support New Zealand content and were satisfied that the existing arrangements through NZ On Air and Te Māngai Pāho contained sufficient flexibility to respond well to convergence.”

The Government is also considering whether other improvements can be made to the system, for example whether classification labels can be standardised across mediums such as television, film and games.

Converge programme on track, says Adams

The planned reforms to the Broadcasting Act follows the creation last year of a cross-Government convergence work programme “to ensure our regulations are fit for purpose in an increasingly converged media environment. ” Adams said substantial progress had already been made on all fronts.

In addition to the review of the Broadcasting Act she listed these as:

  • A review of the regulatory framework for telecommunications to set the high-level direction for the future regulation of communications services. An options paper has been issued and is open for consultation.
  • Consultation has concluded on the review of the Radiocommunications Act and the intention is to include any changes in upcoming legislation.
  • In December 2015, the Cyber Security Strategy and Action Plan was launched;
  • The Creative Sector Study aims to gain an insight into how the creative sector interacts with copyright and designs regimes in a converging technological landscape. The first stage of the study was completed in May.
  • In May, a law was passed to collect GST from cross-border services, including content and software purchased from off shore websites;
  • The Data Futures Partnership is engaging with New Zealanders on their view of data use and sharing gets underway in October.

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