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

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
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.

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