Freely available, no or low cost broadcasting, media and communications are essential for democracy to thrive. NZ’s broadcasting and digital communications policies, provisions and regulations are failing to measure up. Cunliffe’s Labour has at least twigged that broadcasting and digital communications policies need to be inter-linked in the 21st century context. NZ’s policies on both need major restructuring.
As an Aucklander with easy access to UHF Freeview, I hadn’t realised how unprepared many parts of NZ are for the analogue TV switch off in December. Some places in NZ can’t receive Freeview Terrestrial via a UHF aerial, so they need a Satellite dish to get it. But you don’t get all the same channels on both platforms. And it all costs money to install.
Tim Selwyn does a (totally understandable) rant about it here, and about the related commercial profiteering and manipulation of digital communications by largely overseas corporates.
Last week we learnt that the Mediaworks restructure has ran into Fox playing hardball in making them take all of their product. Forcing America up our arses. And Vodafone this week have announced their TelstraClear cable system will link up with Sky to coat-tail on the government’s UFB fibre subsidised roll-out (which is itself a back-door subsidy to the Telecom corporate hydra).This is what happens when the core service is diluted: the government’s mates start creaming it. This is market manipulation.The conclusion is that FV is designed to be less. FV is planned to be shit. It’s shit so that Sky looks good and so that Igloo – the connivance between Sky and TVNZ – can exist in the crawl space between subscriber and free-to-air television and circumvent the Commerce Commission kicking their arses. It’s shit so it assists the uptake of the government’s fibre roll-out. It’s all a massive have.
Chris [Trotter] does tip his hat to the rising influence of the net, but it’s essential to the rest of his argument to downplay this:
If Broadcasting were still as important as Chris suggests, why did newly-elected Labour leader David Cunliffe toss it to a junior colleague, while taking the ICT portfolio for himself? I’d say it’s because he knows that regardless of the statistics on where most people currently get the “news of the day”, most people my age (“Gen X”) rely on carefully chosen sources on the web to inform us about the world. For our children, going to the Net for information is as normal as watching the TV news was for us as children. In the coming decades, television will still have its place, as radio did during the reign of television, but particularly as the UFB kicks in, Broadband will continue to replace Broadcasting as the virtual public square.
A joint press release yesterday by Clare Curran (Associate Spokesperson Communications & IT) and Kris Faafoi (Broadcasting, Associate Communications & ICT), indicates Cunliffe understands that broadcasting and ICT policy need to be strongly linked. They are rightly critical of the ruling on Sky TV’s anti-competitive practices.
Sky TV has got off extremely lightly after the Commerce Commission found its previous contracts may have breached the Commerce Act, said Labour Broadcasting spokesperson Kris Faafoi and associate ICT spokesperson Clare Curran.
“Sky TV is a monopoly broadcaster so it is extremely concerning that the Commerce Commission has found it may have entered into contracts that reduced competition,” said Kris Faafoi.
Sky should consider itself extremely lucky today. The ruling is a cop out from the Commission. A monopoly as powerful as Sky should not be able to get away with uncompetitive behaviour. It is a kick in the guts to consumers.
“The Commission appears to have decided not to take any action because a case would cost too much and take too long. That’s not good enough. It should do its job as a regulator,” said Kris Faafoi.
“The Commission claims that Sky’s monopoly in the content market has not created harm. Tell that to the Telcos and broadcasters. They have said for a long time that barriers to content deals with providers such as Netflix and Hulu are preventing the growth of the industry which will drive uptake of ultra-fast broadband,” said Clare Curran.
“If for no other reason the Government should be worried that future ultra-fast broadband content deals may be constrained by the Commission’s inaction.
“The Commerce Commission should take this to the next level, which is an inquiry. If there have been breaches they should be dealt with. If the Commerce Act needs an overhaul then Labour will consider it.
Cunliffe clearly sees this an important are for Labour policy development, as he has given himself the role of spokesperson for Communications and IT.
I will be looking to see how these linked areas of policy are developed under Cunliffe’s Labour.
In the meantime, Freeview and internet connections are failing to achieve the coverage, accessibility, quality and standards required for widespread democratic engagement in NZ.