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Alston Decides: Internet Streaming is Not Broadcasting

[Sydney, AUSTRALIA] The Federal Government has announced that it will not regard audio and video streaming over the Internet as a form of broadcasting. In response to industry outrage at the concept, the government has ruled out the requirement that content providers would require traditional broadcasting licences to stream their products.

A proposed change to the Broadcasting Services Act requires Senator Richard Alston to "cause to be conducted a review of whether, in the context of converging media technologies, streamed audio and video content obtainable on the Internet should be regarded as a broadcasting service."

Senator Alston said that the decision to make it absolutely clear that Internet video and audio streaming are not regarded as broadcasting will apply to all Internet video and audio streaming other than over the broadcasting services bands which will be regulated under the recent digital television legislation.

He said the government will now consider whether it will introduce legislation to clear up the uncertainty. 'The purpose of the Government's proposed non-statutory review was merely to clarify these existing legal uncertainties, not to embark on any new policy exercise about the desirability or otherwise of defining streaming as broadcasting," Alston said.

He also claimed that the government's intention has never been to define streaming content as broadcasting.

IIA executive director, Peter Coroneos, was cautious about the statement. "Well, the road to hell is paved with good intentions." He urged the government to legislate the decision. "The review has concluded within the timeframe that we considered appropriate in the circumstances. However, until the decision has been given legal effect, the position of our members will remain uncertain. We urge the Minister to take all necessary legal steps to exempt Internet streaming from the definition of 'broadcasting services' as he appears empowered to do under the existing legislation. In addition, we will be seeking legislative amendment to cement the decision into law, so that it cannot be undone at any future time without full parliamentary scrutiny."

Coroneos added, "Our next step will be to push for a full and complete overhaul of this hopelessly antiquated [Broadcasting Services] Act. In an era of convergent technologies, it is unbelievable that we have to operate under a regulatory regime that pretends that you can draw lines to separate one form of content from another - based purely on mode of delivery."