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Bill Bennett

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Drury’s brilliant content plan

It is hard to argue with the content plan in Rod Drury’s alternative technology budget at the NBR.

He writes:

The ICT and Broadcasting portfolios are merged. The new minister is charged with unlocking content from overseas providers so it can be legally purchased in New Zealand (for example: Netflix, iTunes, Amazon) to stimulate UFB uptake. TVNZ will broadcast content for free and additionally make all content available globally for a small fee (for example: paid content in iTunes).

Merging the IT and Broadcasting portfolios is long overdue. The two collided when Saturn Communications built its first HFC cable network in the 1990s. It has been hard to see where one stops and the other starts for over a decade.

Grasping the content nettle is more important. As Drury suggests, residential fibre won’t take off until consumers can get decent television shows, sports and movies without breaking the law or jumping through technical hoops.

Slow residential fibre uptake means the economy won’t see the wider benefits of faster broadband. This in turn means Sky TV’s effective monopoly on content now holds back the wider economy. Economists can determine how much this costs.

Whatever political considerations that meant this wasn’t tackled before now must take a back seat.

Putting this in a budget is clever because it forces politicians to face the cost of ignoring the problem. That’s important because Parliament doesn’t seem to have the political will to challenge Sky TV. This will put pressure on politicians to face the issue.

Presumably global content providers like Netflix and iTunes will one day cut international deals with the content creators that bypass geographic monopolies like Sky. New Zealand’s economy can’t wait for others to act.

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