New Zealand Law Society - Government plans update of Broadcasting Act to include online content

Government plans update of Broadcasting Act to include online content

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The Government has announced plans to update the Broadcasting Act 1989 to include online content.

Broadcasting Minister Amy Adams says the media sector is in a period of great change and New Zealanders are consuming content in completely different ways to even a few years ago.

"In today's world where New Zealanders can access content anywhere and at any time, it's important we ensure our legislation remains fit for purpose. On-demand content is either regulated inconsistently or not at all, which can potentially expose the public to harm, as all content is not subject to the same classification standard," she says.

The Government considered four areas as part of its review into content regulation: classification requirements, advertising restrictions, election programming and contestable funding.

One of the primary drivers of the review was that confusion had arisen as to whether online content through on-demand sites are subject to the Broadcasting Act, the Film, Videos, and Publications Classification Act (FVPC Act), or not at all.

To clarify this, the Government is proposing two changes to the Broadcasting Act, through a new Digital Convergence Bill:

  • Extending the Broadcasting Act to capture on-demand content and ensure it meets classification and content standards, and making it clear the FVPC Act does not apply. These changes do not affect user-generated content, such as Facebook or YouTube videos and exclude news and current affairs,
  • Providing television broadcasters with the right to include advertising on Sunday mornings during significant events, such as major overseas sports events like the Rugby World Cup. Advertising restrictions will remain in place for Good Friday and Easter Sunday, Anzac Day and Christmas Day.

"The extension to our standards will ensure greater consistency and fairness across the sector, and support continued innovation and growth within the industry. Any regulation should also protect the need of New Zealanders to access diverse, high-quality local and international content," she says.

The Broadcasting Standards Authority will continue to administer the standards system, with its role extended to include on-demand content.

Changes around election programming rules in the Broadcasting Act will be considered as part of the Government's response to the Justice and  Electoral Committee 2014 Election Inquiry.

"We also considered the funding mechanisms that support New Zealand content and were satisfied that the existing arrangements through NZ On Air and Te Māngai Pāho contained sufficient flexibility to respond well to convergence." she says.

The Government is also considering whether other improvements can be made to the system, for example whether classification labels can be standardised across mediums such as television, film and games.

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