Of The Month: Virgin
Mobile Australia 3 Paul
TV faces a future of endless reruns, by David Humphries
- 29th September 2006
The Sydney Morning Herald)
would end up with repackaged reruns of Dancing with
the Stars and Australian Idol on so-called mobile
television if existing TV operators secured licences,
Fairfax Media says.
company's NSW managing director, James Hooke, urged
the Senate yesterday to reject the Federal Government's
legislation on media ownership, unless existing operators
were denied the new channel B digital-spectrum licences.
cheaper for them [the free-to-air television industry
and Foxtel] to repackage Dancing with the Stars, Australian
Idol for mobile [telephone] television than it would
be for anyone else to create content," Mr Hooke
told a Senate investigation into the legislation.
packing of 31 witnesses into just two days of hearings,
and the consequent squeeze on time for testimony and
questions, prompted protests yesterday from Labor
senators. But the legislation's difficulties go far
beyond the Opposition.
from concern on the Government's back bench, three
Coalition senators on the inquiry have voiced concerns
about diversity of news sources. Some expressed disquiet
yesterday about whether the Australian Competition
and Consumer Commission would have the power to block
market abuse. The Prime Minister, John Howard, yesterday
said "a decision as to whether we modify the
bill" would await the inquiry's conclusions.
Mr Hooke said the proposed law would fail to promote
diversity if "the greatest delivery of new television
spectrum in 50 years" remained available to existing
operators. Allowing them to dominate the channel B
auctions would permit "diversity of device, not
of content", Mr Hooke said. "For them the
marginal cost of adjusting their content to send it
through digital television, through mobile television,
will be the lowest," said Mr Hooke, representing
Fairfax Media, publisher of the Herald.
yet there was "no scenario in which free-to-air
or Foxtel would not be the highest bidder" for
mobile licences, Mr Hooke said.
need to stop the fragmentation of [their] audience,
and they need to put their foothold on this spectrum
to stop that happening."
7's Bridget Godwin, however, said channel B was aimed
at "new and innovative services" and "we
should be offered the opportunity to participate"
because "we have something valuable to offer".
network's regulatory and business affairs manager
was critical of Australia's slow take-up of digital
TV. Britain began its conversion four years ago -
two years later than Australia - but had achieved
penetration of 75 per cent, compared with Australia's
17 per cent. Telstra's regulatory deputy director,
Jane Van Beelen, said mobile television presented
"significant opportunities distinct from and
complementary to traditional broadcasting". She
said it would encourage new broadcast entrants, but
rules had to apply equally to all. Challenged on whether
his submission was motivated by self-interest rather
than national interest, Mr Hooke was quizzed on whether
the exclusion of existing TV broadcasters would leave
Fairfax a clear run at channel B.
that's not the case," he said. He said the field
would be open to newspaper groups such as APN and
Rural Press, to international producers such as Viacom
and Disney, and internet players.
said Fairfax wanted to expand its media ownership,
but was lukewarm towards existing television interests.
"Our current perspective is free-to-air television
faces interesting times and the share price of free-to-air
is over-priced," he said.
chairman [Ron Walker] is on the record as saying our
interest in free-to-air has diminished as the viewership
federal Communications Department admitted one proprietor
could control all media outlets in a regional centre
under the laws.
department's acting general manager of content and
media, Dr Simon Pelling, conceded that one proprietor
could take over a local television station, newspaper
and radio station in an area with six media outlets.
digital TV laws, says Fairfax - 28th September 2006
The Sydney Morning Herald)
for media company Fairfax have told a Senate committee
that proposed laws governing the roll-out of new digital
television services must be scrapped to allow new
players to enter the market.
company has also criticised the quality of broadband
internet services in Australia, warning the current
network is archaic and is severely limiting the services
that media companies can provide.
committee is reviewing a package of laws introduced
this month by the Government, which are billed as
the greatest shake-up of Australia's media ownership
rules in 20 years.
rural MPs from all sides of government fear the package
will damage media diversity in regional areas.
part of the package the Government will create two
new digital stations, A and B, with A restricted to
simple datacasting and B geared towards new gadgets
such as mobile telephones.
are no restrictions on who can bid for licence B,
but Fairfax wants Foxtel and free-to-air stations
barred from controlling the licence to allow new players
to enter the market.
is being created here is the greatest delivery of
new television spectrum in 50 years, and new entrants
will not be encouraged because the people who will
have the vested interest in bidding the highest price
for this are the incumbents already in free-to-air
television," Fairfax managing director NSW James
Hooke told the inquiry.
mere fact that someone will be able to see Dancing
with the Stars on a mobile telephone device, we don't
think is diversity."
there is no restriction on the bidding for licence
B and free-to-air television is enabled to bid there
will be no diversity from that new spectrum,"
Mr Hooke said.
Hooke said if free-to-air stations or Foxtel won the
licence for B they would simply repackage existing
content for broadcast to mobile phones.
said the restrictions as to what channel A could broadcast
made the licence financially unviable.
Hooke said Fairfax's interest in acquiring a free-to-air
television station had "diminished".
television faces some interesting times and ... the
share price of it is overpriced for what we think
would provide a return for our shareholders,"
Mr Hooke said.
Hooke said Fairfax was very disappointed with broadband
services as they now stood, as the poor quality limited
new services the company could provide online.
ability to provide content people want is diminished
... it's partly diminished by the frustration that
people have while they're on their 56k modem dial-up
waiting for a video image to download - they go slowly
mad in the process," Mr Hooke said.