Separate regulation of broadcasters, telcos 'antiquated', says MediaWorks boss

Mediaworks managing director Sussan Turner with TV3 presenter Mike McRoberts. File photo / Norrie Montgomery
Mediaworks managing director Sussan Turner with TV3 presenter Mike McRoberts. File photo / Norrie Montgomery

The current regulation model that treats broadcasters and telecommunications companies as separate industries is "antiquated" and needs a more level playing to stoke competition, according to the boss of MediaWorks.

Managing director Sussan Turner told a broadband conference in Auckland that New Zealand needs a regulated wholesale market for content. The aggregation of screening rights by rivals Television New Zealand and Sky Network Television, who recently entered into a joint venture is stifling opportunities for rival broadcasters, she said.

With the prospect of a new delivery platform that opens up distribution of programming, regulation needs to come under one umbrella, she said.

"Separate regulation of broadcasters and telcos is antiquated and limits growth, innovation and competition," Turner said. "It's MediaWorks' contention that telco companies and free-to-air broadcasters won't have much without a wholesale market for content."

Earlier today, new Communications and Information Technology Minister Amy Adams backed away from introducing new regulation, saying the sector needs to settle down before the government will consider cutting across market forces. Adams was sceptical of a joint broadcasting and telecommunications regulator.

Turner took a pot-shot at TVNZ, saying the state-owned broadcaster has previously hoarded broadcasting rights purely to prevent TV3 from accessing programmes, and that some kind of light regulation is needed.

"We're not whiners, we love the free market economy," Turner said.

MediaWorks, which operates TV3 and radio stations including The Rock and More FM, will roll out new content over a broadband model based on demand for services and the broadcasting rights it is able to secure, she said.

Turner immediately followed Sky TV chief executive John Fellett, who talked down the need for regulation, saying the new infrastructure will lead to a fracturing of platforms and a shift towards more on-demand programming. Those are two areas the pay-TV operator will be focusing on, he said.

Fellett said Sky TV doesn't have subscription-on-demand rights, which is what a company like Netflix operates with, and that it is only a matter of time before that kind of service arrives in New Zealand.

Fellett and Turner were part a panel discussion on drivers of consumer demand at a broadband conference set up by the Commerce Commission. The event is part of the antitrust regulator's demand-side study into UFB uptake, and will discuss the nation's internet opportunities.

- BusinessDesk

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