Free TV’s wish list: Reduce our fees; Let us do less for kids; Include our digital channels in the content quota; Don’t restrict when we can show stuff; Ease up on the advertising regulations

Australia’s free to air broadcasters have based a call for cheaper licence fees and reducing its obligations around content on the claim that IPTV is now a genuine competitor.

The shopping list of requests to the government, also includes an end to limits on when programs can be shown which were created to protect children, loosening the obligation to provide programming for kids because the ABC is already doing it, reducing the regulation of advertising and a reexamination of the current obligations to meet a quota of Australian-made content on the mainstream channel.  

The wish list – which was released late on Friday afternoon – appears in Free TV Australia’s submission to the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy‘s review of media regulation.

IPTV allows video to be delivered to consumers via the internet. Free TV also claims that timeshifting of viewing is making timezones “irelevant”. However, timeshift data from OzTam suggests that shows on the mainstream TV channels are still typically watched as live by more than 90% of the recorded audience.

Free TV’s submission on IPTV:

“Under the current framework, the same piece of content is subject to different regulatory requirements depending on the platform over which it is delivered. However for the viewer, the delivery platform is generally irrelevant to their experience of the content. This is particularly the case when different delivery platforms merge into a single device, such as the Telstra T-Box which incorporates the delivery of free-to-air content, pay TV content, IPTV content, YouTube and video-on-demand content.”

On loosening the rules over what cna be shown while children may be watching:

“A child is not going to be any less impacted by harmful content if they access it via free-to-air TV, pay TV, IPTV, the internet or even time-shifted TV. And as more than one of these services can be viewed on a single device, consumers are now creating their own schedules for content consumption without even being aware that they are moving between platforms, let alone regulatory environments.”

On time shifting:

“As at May 2011, PVR penetration in Australia was 42% – timeshifting increasingly makes timezones irrelevant.”

“The requirement to only show certain content at certain times of the day puts commercial free-to-air broadcasters at a competitive disadvantage in terms of their scheduling strategies.”

On licence fees:

“Free TV is seeking a permanent reduction in licence fees to reflect long-term structural changes in the media market and to bring them into line with international best practice. Australian free-to-air broadcasters pay higher licence fees than their peers in any comparable market.

“Licence fees are tied to revenue but revenue growth has flattened whilst costs continue to rise, particularly since the introduction of multi-channels and the need to respond to competition from additional pay TV channels and new IPTV services.”

On the quota of Australian content on the main channels:

“Since the Australian Content Standard was last reviewed, free-to-air commercial broadcasters have launched an additional 6 multi-channels. However, the existing obligations do not recognise this and broadcasters are not able to count multichannel Australian content towards their overall quota obligations.

“The original rationale for this was to ensure that in the early stages of digital conversion, audiences did not miss out on Australian content if they had not completed the switch to digital television. With Australia transitioning to a fully digital environment by the end of 2013, this kind of regulatory distinction becomes irrelevant and there is scope to consider additional flexibility in how broadcasters meet cultural objectives.”

On providing programming for kids:

“The restrictions placed by the CTS (Children’s Television Standards) are highly complex and extremely prescriptive. The original logic behind the quotas and CTS system was to ensure that appropriate programming was available during the times children watch television. This argument no longer exists in the digital environment. Parents now have a range of sources of ‘safe’ content for their children accessible 24 hours a day, including DVDs, pay television, video on demand and ABC2 and ABC3 (which provide ad-free children’s programming 6am-9pm).”

On advertising regulations:

“Free TV expects the Review to raise important questions regarding the ongoing relevance of sector-specific advertising regulation in an environment where consumers are accessing content from a variety of platforms, often simultaneously. We expect the Review to consider the need for a streamlined system of regulation.”

Meanwhile, The Australian has reported that the govenrment has already decided to give the TV networks another rebate while the review takes place.


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