RealTime IT News

Datacasting Bill 'Kiss of Death', Says IIA

National Internet watchdog, the Internet Industry Association (IIA), has warned that the datacasting legislation to go before the Federal Senate would be the 'kiss of death' for the growth of datacasting in Australia, before it has even begun.

The bill, which will go before the Senate this week, will further marginalize regional Australia in terms of its information access, said IIA executive director Peter Coroneos. The IIA also claimed the legislation will also "send a negative signal to the international investment community", as it favors existing broadcasters in the right to datacast content.

Coroneos pointed to recent moves by main prospective datacasters, Telstra and publisher John Fairfax to pull out of datacasting trials in July and August (reported on australia.internet.com) as a sign that the legislation removed the impetus for datacasters to compete with free-to-air broadcasters online.

"Potential competitors to free-to-air broadcasters now have no incentive to invest in either broadband content development for or deliver via spectrum," said Coroneos.

The legislation prevents datacasters from providing content in genres established as the territory of free to air broadcasters, such as drama and lifestyle programs, but allows datacasters to provide extracts of such content of up to 10 minutes.

Similar 10 minute limitations are imposed on headline bulletins of general, sport and financial news as well as weather. Viewers can select longer stories from an on-screen menu.

The only area in which there is now restriction is with the creation of educational content and access to Web sites.

Free to air broadcasters will be able to provide digital enhancements to their main simulcast programs, provided there is a direct link between the enhancement and the originating material and the enhancements are contemporaneous with the linked simulcast program.

"The only winners here are the old economy television broadcasters," said Coroneos. "The losers will be Australians in regional areas who have struggled with slow and expensive access."

Coroneos added that while datacasting could have provided an informational link to metropolitan areas, the business case for faster rollout of enhanced technologies no longer existed. He also believed that the legislation's limitations could erode the opportunities for testing datacasting technologies for export to India and China.