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NZ Govt asks: What does digital convergence mean for us?

The New Zealand Government has launched a Green Paper and work programme that explores digital convergence, looking at challenges and opportunities of a converged world.

Convergence is a term used to describe the common delivery of previously separate services, such as broadcasting and telecommunications, over a shared digital infrastructure. As a result, boundaries between previously separate industries are reduced.

According to the Government, convergence is disrupting traditional business models by enabling greater competition and innovation in industry revenue models and product offerings.

Increasingly, telephony, data and audio-visual content are being bundled together in a complementary product offering.

Consumers now access different types of content, once only available through different devices and mediums, on a single device via online transmission. This increases both accessibility and potentially choice.

The Exploring Digital Convergence Green Paper has been established to ensure New Zealand's laws are fit-for-purpose. The work programme aims to create a level playing field for content and information, regardless of what type of technology delivers it.

The Green Paper provides a view of the cross-government convergence work programme and aims to spark a discussion on the implications of convergence in the telecommunications, information technology, media and entertainment sectors, and the Government's proposed response.

Amy Adams, Communications and Broadcasting Minister, says, “How we communicate, do business and access information and entertainment is changing rapidly. Streaming on demand content on a smartphone or getting our news on the web is the new normal.” 

“While these exciting changes are simplifying our lives and creating new opportunities, our laws haven’t kept pace.

“They treat various technologies differently, even if they are performing similar functions. For example, a show broadcast on TV can face different restrictions than when it’s streamed on demand via the web. This is confusing, restrictive and dampens innovation.

 “We need to consider the implications of convergence across the regulatory framework and ask whether our systems are correctly calibrated for this converged world that we live in,” she says. 

Supporting the rapid convergence of new technologies and delivery platforms is a priority for the Government, according to a statement.

“Content and delivery have become decoupled. We need to ensure we don’t inadvertently stifle innovation or create inequities between businesses who now find themselves competing for market share.

“I’m interested in exploring incidences of duplications or inconsistencies that could create an un-even playing field,” says Adams.

The Green Paper provides an overview of the convergence of historically separate industries, and the policy and legislative issues that arise from this. It sets out the high-level cross government response and outlines the current work programme.

 The cross-government work programme initially comprises:

  • A review of the regulatory framework for content
  • A review of the regulatory framework for telecommunications and radio spectrum
  • Developing the infrastructure needed to support convergence
  • A refresh of the Cyber Security Strategy and Action Plan
  • A review of the applicability of GST to cross border services and intangibles
  • A study of the creative sector use of the copyright and designs regimes
  • The Data Futures Partnership.

Each of these work streams will be the subject of specific work undertaken by Ministers.

The Green Paper and work programme is part of the Government's Business Growth Agenda and work on Building Innovation that focuses on proactively reviewing market regulations to ensure they support the development of new, innovative products and services.

The government has also released a paper titled, Content Regulation in a Converged World, which specifically looks at 221st century content regulation.

More information on the Green Paper and associated work programme can be found at www.convergencediscussion.nz

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