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Digital Broadcasting in New Zealand: reviewing regulation submissions

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 20-May-2008 21:06

Today I spent a couple of hours reading some of the submissions to the Digital Broadcasting: Review of Regulation Discussion Paper. Below I am copying some of the most "interesting" comments extracted from each submission. There are many more and I invite you to read those.

The review is being conducted by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage and Ministry of Economic Development.

Fairfax (

3.2.1 Fairfax Media believes it would be unwise for Government to intervene in matters of content rights acquisition. Market forces should be allowed to operate. It is important that fair play/use exists to ensure accessibility and affordability by all and for the protection of events of major importance. The business notes that a lessening of anti-siphoning legislation would appear to be the global trend.

3.2.2 It is proposed that co-regulation exist to ensure fair competition against vertically integrated content and carriage companies, particularly with regard to open access and the control of Electronic Programme Guides.

3.4.1 Fairfax would suggest that greater intervention is required to avoid loss of income from original audio visual content that is copied and shared via peer to peer networks. ISPs and telecommunications companies, the government, and the wider content community need to find consensus through co-regulation on how to prevent illegal file sharing and the resultant sap on bandwidth.

3.4.2 Crucial to any discussion about controlling illegal file sharing is the concept of net-neutrality. Co-regulation could be used to ensure that a communications provider cannot “throttle” bandwidth to or from a content provider at the telco’s own behest. Differential broadband pricing for “preferred” content should also be avoided.

4.1.1 As stated with regard to content distribution above, Fairfax Media is keen to ensure that opportunities remain open for transmission of its content across all platforms. It wishes to see the development of an open access regime through co-regulation.

4.1.2 Such a regime should not be overly onerous such that it hinders the development of new channels, but should prevent platform providers taking unfair advantage of their control of Electronic Programme Guides (EPGs). It should ensure that full technical platform services are provided to content/channel providers. A proactive approach is required to grow a confident digital audience and deliver the promised value of Analogue Switch Off (ASO) to New Zealanders at the earliest opportunity.

Freeview (

In New Zealand, Freeview believes that one example of asymmetric regulation would be the requirement for all near national1 FTA analogue broadcast license holders to broadcast their channels digitally i.e. on Freeview. At the same time broadcasters should be free to choose whether they wish to broadcast their channels on the Sky digital platform.

In addition to the above, Freeview has four specific issues that could be addressed through Government policy and the careful use of regulatory tools. These relate to the need of broadcasters, suppliers and customers for long-term certainty of the Freeview platform and are:

• Long-term financing for FTA Broadcasters (Freeview) transmission until Analogue Switch-Off (ASO)
• Provision of additional spectrum for DTT platform growth
• Public announcement of and a plan to deliver on an ASO date
• Clarification of access to spectrum post ASO

Google (

Google supports regulation of advertising being largely left to the market. To date, New Zealand has largely adopted this model and it appears to have encountered few problems. Google does not believe that now is the time for New Zealand to revert to intrusive regulation of advertising, particularly when the industry as whole (both traditional and new media) has demonstrated a very high standard of self-regulation in the area of advertising.

Online advertising is an evolving, dynamic market – the cost of regulation would be high Online advertising remains an evolving, innovative business model which is fuelling substantial social and economic benefits.

The online advertising business is complex and still nascent, but even at this early stage it is clear that online advertising benefits consumers while also helping small businesses succeed. It is also a robust industry characterised by strong competition, significant innovation and tremendous growth.

The growth in online advertising offers many consumer benefits. In Google’s experience, individuals value advertisements that help connect them to the information, products and services they seek. Relevant advertising is information that is useful to consumers, particularly, as is the case in online advertising (and in contrast to traditional broadcasting advertising) where technology permits niche advertising to be more easily tailored to niche audiences.

The Discussion Papers correctly identify open access regulation as an important network issue. Google encourages the Government to reach a view that the Internet’s inherently decentralised, open nature is an essential feature to be retained and preserved.

Google strongly supports maintaining the non-discriminatory architectural principles that have made the Internet an unparalleled engine for economic growth, innovation and social discourse.

The Internet was designed to maximise user choice and innovation by making the network itself neutral with regard to the applications it supports. That is, the network is essentially unaware of the actual applications for which it is used – network intermediaries, such as Internet service providers (ISPs), do not favour particular sites or applications over others and data is routed equally on a 'best efforts' basis.

For entrepreneurs, innovators and creators, this fundamental neutrality of the network allows innovation without permission. New applications, from the revolutionary to the merely useful, can be deployed and embraced by millions of individual users worldwide without the need for approval from gatekeepers. The users at the edges of the network essentially determine the uses to which the network is put.

Google submits that the Government should evaluate emerging threats to this openness and how, if at all, they impact the local market. Certain ISPs around the world have begun altering this fundamentally open architecture, such as by degrading or blocking certain applications or content. Particularly in the absence of robust competition in the last-mile broadband market, Google submits that the Government should be alert to the possible threat arising from the ability of ISPs to discriminate against applications and content providers in an anti-competitive way.

Just as it is important to preserve the Internet’s openness in the context of fixed line broadband, Google submits that it is also critical in the context of wireless or mobile Internet access. Increasingly, consumers are accessing the Internet through mobile, handheld devices. As in the case of fixed line broadband, users, not the intermediaries offering access, should be in control of the devices, content and applications they access on the Internet.

Qualcomm (

With regard to standards for mobile broadcast television, Qualcomm believes that a market-led approach and a clear spectrum strategy are vital to the successful long-term development of commercial mobile multimedia services and, therefore, supports the principle of technology neutrality whereby no one technology is favored over another in policymaking. MCH/MED should ensure flexibility for operators to deploy the standard that best suits their business needs.

It is also worth noting that the European Commission (EC) announced last month its decision to include DVB-H in its Official Journal (list of standards). However, the press release issued by the EC overstates the significance of this decision. The fact remains that DVB-H can only be listed as a non-mandatory standard in the Official Journal and this does not exclude other mobile broadcast technologies from competing in the European Union. This decision leaves room for additional mobile TV standards to be adopted by EU Member States and ensures that the market can decide which technologies will ultimately prevail. This is in line with the Transportation, Telecommunications & Energy Council’s (TTE) conclusions, as published in November 2007, which called on the EC to uphold a technology-neutral stance on mobile TV standards.

Qualcomm has been actively following the digital dividend and mobile TV developments in Europe. In addition, Qualcomm and British Sky Broadcasting Limited (BSkyB) conducted two joint technical trials of the MediaFLO System in the United Kingdom.

Recording Industry Association NZ (

10. When considering regulations for broadcasting and other types of transmission to the public in this digital environment, it is important that consideration is given not only to standards of content being transmitted, but also to whether or not the content infringes copyright.

11. The problem of unauthorized digital downloading and file sharing of music is the single greatest issue for the future of the recording industry, musicians and songwriters alike. The availability of musinc online for free is crippling the full development of a legiitimate digital market.

14. Much of this decline [of CD sales] locally and internationally is due to systematic infringement of copyright by individuals sharing music via on-line peer to peer ("P2P") networks on internet services controlled by ISPs.

16. Until recently, ISPs have played little role in protecting copyrighted content on the internet and copyright theft has been allowed to run rampand on their networks.In the case of infringement via P2P networks, ISPs so far have stood by, allowing a mass devaluation of copyrighted music.

Telecom New Zealand (

We effectively provide open access to our network.

Vodafone New Zealand (

17. Consumer demand for “free” content has changed the revenue model and forever altered the role of the telecommunications platform provider as a gatekeeper. Content is moving from a closed walled garden, pay per event or subscription model, to a model where it is accessible for the cost of data with the ability to follow links to the internet.

41. Any attempt to impose standards on blogs and user generated content would be anathema to the network users. It poses threats to the right to free expression and contemporary forms of communication. An increasingly aware internet audience, supported by a programme of media literacy, is capable of determining between fact and opinion and moderating unsavoury content.

50. [Illegal File Sharing and Peer-to-Peer Networks] is not a matter for additional regulation, but one which could be dealt with by the Copyright Act 1994. Changes in technology and business models are altering the way in which peer-to-peer networks are being used, in many instances quite legitimately4. Vodafone notes the recent development of the BBC’s iplayer services as one example5. While assuming responsibility for its own network, Vodafone would resist attempts such as those in the United States and Europe to have it “police” the internet.

Oh, the irony of the comments...

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Mauricio Freitas
New Zealand

I live in New Zealand and my interests include mobile devices, good books, movies and food of course! 

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