Communications Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, has predicted the national broadband network (NBN) will bring hundreds of TV channels to Australia and flagged a consequential need for radical change in the media sector’s regulatory framework.
In response to a question on how the NBN would affect the media sector’s regulatory framework, Conroy, pointed to IPTV providers in Hong Kong as an example of the kind of threat to incumbent TV providers that will force change.
“Convergence has happened. The broadband network is going to radically reshape the media sector,” Conroy said. “Some get it a lot, some don’t quite get it yet and some have been in a position of privilege for some time and had competition kept away from them. But broadband network IPTV [will bring] hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of channels of choice for consumers. That is going to force a radical change.”
As the NBN is based on a fibre-to-the-premises (fttp) approach that can handle the bandwidth demands of IPTV, existing regulations such as the 75/25 rule – where broadcasters are not allowed to reach more than 75 per cent of the population – will need to be reworked, Conroy said, adding he was already participating in discussions with these issues in mind.
“IPTV is an international phenomenon. Hong Kong IPTV, if you can get it connected up is just unbelievable. It is a threat not just to free to air networks it is a threat to existing, incumbent pay networks,” Conroy said. “It has a slice and dice [approach] – you can take an hour, you can take a genre, you can take a week, you can take a package of anything you want and slice and dice it any way you want. So there are enormous challenges to our media sector coming through the broadband revolution. The regulation is going to have to find a way to move, change, adopt or be got rid of as that new environment is there.”
The minister’s comments were also recently echoed by Alcatel-Lucent Asia-Pacific futurologist, Geof Heydon.
“If you said to me, in 20 years time what would be the way we are watching broadcast TV, the answer would be on the fibre network. There won’t be any terrestrial TV anymore – there just won’t be any reason to have it. There will be a migration to fully digital and then I think a migration to fibre-based delivery for everybody,” he told ARN in a recent interview.