The Ministry of Culture and Heritage’s review of digital broadcasting regulation has raising a bundle of issues that have implications far beyond broadcasting.
Submissions to the review, released last week online, showed little if any signs of consensus, making it clear that the convergence of media, telecommunications and entertainment will be a new battleground for private and public sector players and for regulators.
It is somewhat unusual to see submissions to such a review that question the very basis of the exercise, but there were several such submissions evident last week.
Kordia questions assertions in the discussion paper that New Zealand’s light handed regulation had won international approval.
“Many would take a different view, so we agree with the Paper when it confirms the research report and stakeholder comments that there is the prospect of serious adverse outcomes if there is no regulatory change,” Kordia’s submission says.
Trade Me was more scathing in its criticisms, noting the scope of the term “content” and of the review’s application to the internet remain unclear.
“This is of some concern to us, because, while the review demonstrates a good understanding of the issues and challenges facing broadcasting, the analysis and proposals reflect a less thorough understanding of the internet,” Trade Me’s submission says.
“We respectfully suggest that significant parts of the research about the internet are both inaccurate and poorly referenced, in particular the depiction, measurement and units of analysis pertaining to digital media players in volume one,” the submission says. “We’d suggest reference to industry standards, such as the measurements by Nielsen//Netratings, making clear the unit of measurement, the timeframe and the definitions.”
It goes on to say there appears to be an assumption that there is a problem that needs fixing. “The documents list a number of broadly defined threats, but an analysis of whether those threats are current or potential, real or perceived, appears to be missing.”
Telecom raised a similar complaint. “It’s not clear what problem the Ministry is seeking to resolve,” says Telecom’s submission.
“It is important that an issue or problem is clearly defined before any regulation is imposed. A consistent overarching regulatory policy will allow issues to be identified and the Ministry to consider whether market regulation is the best means to achieve its objectives.”
The Triangle/Stratos TV submission again takes issue with lack of definition.
“We are concerned by the undefined words ‘accessibility’ and ‘affordability’ in relation to broadcasting and broadcasting-like services. Accessibility by whom and affordability in relation to what?”
Among other themes in the submissions were consistent references to conflict between economic and social objectives in regulation.
While convergence is undoubtedly happening, there is precious little sign of any convergence of ideas about how, or even if, it should be managed.