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Consultation paper : Broadcasting and new digital media : future of content regulation (January 2008)

This 2008 paper sought views on the future of broadcasting standards in New Zealand.  What we call '"broadcasting" is an exciting period of transition, with audio-visual content appearing in a variety of media, received and shared and added on demand. Government is encouraging this development with its digital broadcasting and communications policies. But the broadcasting standards regime was set up in a different time when "broadcasting" meant conventional radio and television.  Some changes will be needed to our broadcasting standards.  This paper sought people's views on what these changes should be.

Read the full report as a pdf.

Digital Broadcasting: Review of Regulation Summary of Responses Overview

This document provides a summary analysis of the responses received during the public consultation relating to the discussion papers Digital Broadcasting: Review of Regulation (Volumes 1 and 2) and Broadcasting and New Digital Media: Future of Content Regulation.  These papers can be accessed on the Ministry's website.

See also a more detailed summary of these submissions (pdf).

The majority of respondents agreed with the nine objectives and five principles set out for the review, either in their entirety or with the majority of the objectives and principles. 

Most of the respondents agreed that the diversity scenario as summarised in the discussion paper (Vol. 2, p.6) is a desirable state for New Zealand to work towards.  Some submitters commented on the tension between economic/market and public broadcasting objectives regarding the objectives and principles of the review.  A small number of submitters considered the diversity scenario to be an “idealistic” or “unrealistic” state, requiring “considerable” or “extensive” regulatory intervention.  The greatest threat to diversity was seen to be “lack of competition in relevant markets and diversity in provision (platform, content and services)”.  There was some disagreement as to whether “lack of clarity and consistency in regulation and policies” and “lack of local content – in terms of range, quantity and quality” were threats to diversity.

On the issue of change to the regulatory regime, two thirds of respondents argued that change was necessary.  Of the one third who supported maintenance of the status quo, a number noted that minor amendments were needed to update certain aspects of the current arrangements. 

Section A) - Regulatory framework: Cross-value chain issues

Concerning options for revised institutional arrangements, most submitters supported some level of change, with a clear majority supporting creation of a converged regulator.

There was general consensus that a single regulator should not have both economic and cultural responsibilities.  A few suggestions were made on the possible responsibilities of a single or converged regulator, and on the expansion of the roles of the Broadcasting Standards Authority and the Telecommunications Commissioner should the status quo be maintained.

On the question of the relationship between a single regulator and the Commerce Commission only a few responses addressed the primacy issue, and opinion was divided on this.  Most submitters acknowledged that an overlap would be inevitable if a single regulator were established.   Regarding options relating to market definitions, most submitters supported restructuring or reform.

Broadly speaking, media companies were against media ownership rules of any kind, while a number of consumers (but not all) were in favour of these.

The importance of developing media literacy was acknowledged.  A number of respondents maintained that a wider definition of media literacy is needed (to include internet safety).  Account needs to be taken of existing programmes and the role of the education system, parents, media and internet service providers in any future developments.

Section B) - Content Issues

Respondents were evenly split on the desirability of amalgamating the existing content standards functions of the Broadcasting Standards Authority, the Advertising Standards Authority, and the Office of Film and Literature Classification, and the Press Council in relation to ‘broadcasting-like’ content.

Almost without exception, respondents agreed that funding bodies need further mechanisms than those currently available to achieve the outcomes of diversity, maximum visibility, and accessibility of funded programmes.  Responses on options for ensuring diversity and visibility of local content, were relatively evenly split  between those favouring approaches A) (update), B) (restructure), or C) (reform).  Few responses supported the status quo.  There was an array of responses on the funding implications of any changes.

The majority of respondents believed that a greater focus on public service broadcasters would not be a more effective means of ensuring the continued accessibility of public service broadcasting content.  There was a relatively even split amongst respondents who favoured maintaining the status quo or one of the suggested options for change: A (update), B (restructure) or C (reform). 

Respondents were divided on the desirability of establishing an independent body to measure and monitor the quality and diversity of public service broadcasting,

By far the majority of respondents considered that ‘must-carry’ regulations should be imposed on pay-TV providers to require them to show publicly-funded content. 

Concerning advertising regulation, there was a strong preference for the status quo, with self-regulation to continue to be overseen by the Advertising Standards Authority. 

Section C) - Distribution Issues

Most interest in this section focused on the question relating to the availability of premium content and services which drew at least twice as many responses as the other questions, and many of the responses were very detailed.   Views on this issue were polarised, as were positions on quotas and anti-siphoning rules.  Suggestions for anti-siphoning in regard to sports focused on repeat screenings on other networks and marketable à la carte packages.  Those who supported terms of trade generally focused on must-carry rules. 

Access to content for disadvantaged viewers attracted a spread of responses across the regulatory approaches, as well as specifically focusing on captioning requirements on broadcasters.  There was more agreement on the need to extend funded captioning across all delivery platforms, and on the need for funding and/or requirements for audio-described programmes.

Support for initiatives to increase consumer understanding of New Zealand’s copyright framework, and for maintaining an up-to-date copyright regime, was a theme of the submissions on copyright.  The options for restructure and reform were favoured here.

There was a spread of views on orphan works from general support for a regime of some kind, to restructure and reform.  The majority of submissions saw greater public benefit in having orphan works available, than in protecting the rights of authors who cannot be found.

Section D) - Network Issues

The majority of respondents were in favour of reform to establish an open access regime.  Some reasons given were that this would provide for the greatest public good, prevent unfair market advantage, and avoid unnecessary duplication of infrastructure.  

The majority of submitters were also in favour of the introduction of ‘must-carry’ provisions, with the proposed platforms ranging from Freeview alone, to all pay, cable and satellite platforms.  The majority of respondents considered that ‘must list’ provisions should be in addition to ‘must carry’ provisions.  A variety of views were expressed on the ‘must pay’ option.

Respondents were in general agreement that interoperable technical standards would be desirable, but no clear picture emerged as to how this might be achieved.

The question of the allocation of spectrum drew a broad range of responses.  There was a degree of support for the allocation of spectrum for public service broadcasting and Māori broadcasting. 

The role of regulation in encouraging investment was a major theme and attracted quite a large number of responses, with an even split between those in favour of further regulation and those against it.

There were relatively few responses concerning placement of  a ‘build’ obligation on media platforms to ensure a minimum rollout; and few responses to the question regarding establishment of a media pool to ensure broad geographic service availability of networks.

General/other comments

Responses to this section of the discussion paper were relatively brief.  Some submitters used this section to comment on aspects of broadcasting not specifically covered by the review. 

Updated on 7th October 2019