The Federal Government has
imposed limits on the content datacasters will be able to distribute, in
new legislation introduced to Parliament.
The legislation, which builds on and extends the digital conversion
framework agreed upon by Parliament in 1998, introduces a new definition of
datacasting and restricts datacasters to certain content genres and time
This new definition, which the federal Department for Communications, Information
Technology and the Arts said “provides certainty to the industry, and
ensures that datacasting services are different from television
broadcasting”, sets a 10 minute time limit for content available on
television to be datacast.
Datacasters will not be able to provide content in genres established as
the domain of free-to-air broadcasters, such as drama or lifestyle
programs, but at best they will be able to provide 10 minute extracts of
programs that fall within these categories.
Similarly, a 10 minute headline bulletin will be set as the limit for
general news, as well as sports, financial and other business information.
These stories can only be available to viewers by selecting from an
Outside of the free-to-air genres, datacasters will be able to provide
content without facing any restrictions.
While the broadcasting industry has speculated on such datacasting
restrictions edging into legislation, they have been some time coming.
While the Government maintained they will aid consumers in the move to
digital broadcasting next year, they also appear to offer some protection
to the established domain of the free-to-air broadcasters.
With this protection though they will also have to meet distribution
responsibilities, as all free-to-air broadcasters will have to provide both
High Definition (HDTV) and Standard Defninition (SDTV) broadcasts. This
move will give consumers the option to purchase lower cost SD television
sets and use set top boxes.
Broadcasters will also be able to provide digital enhancements to their
main simulcast programs, as long as there is a link between this
enhancement and its source program, and as long as the enhancements are
relevant with their linked programs.