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Nov 4, 2009

Give Local Content the Digital Dividend – Kim Dalton

The ABC's Director of television, Kim Dalton, has suggested that money reaped from the sale of spectrum freed up by the advent of digital television should be used to support the produc

Margaret Simons

Journalist, author and director of the Centre for Advanced Journalism

The ABC’s Director of television, Kim Dalton, has suggested that money reaped from the sale of spectrum freed up by the advent of digital television should be used to support the production of local content.

They are giving lots of speeches, those ABC guys. See the previous post about Mark Scott’s yet to be delivered address on the ABC’s international future.

Meanwhile, yesterday Dalton was waxing on the future of television and the need for a new policy framework at the KANZ Broadband Summit in New Zealand.

Dalton said that we need to rethink our definition of television, because once we have the National Broadband Network, television type material will be delivered in many ways, by many, many different players. This requires a complete rethink of legislation and policy.

His vision for the future holds little reassurance for our commercial free to air television networks, already struggling under unsustainable debt.

Ultimately the NBN will provide the basic delivery platform to significantly change the television industry by opening the door to as many new TV providers as the market can support. Concurrent with this development will be digital switchover, and the consequent digital dividend, which not only will see a tripling or quadrupling of free to air channels but will allow for a whole range of new wireless and telephony services that will be able to deliver television content… And with that comes the inevitable strain on existing commercial models based around the aggregation of large audiences.  As audiences fragment broadcasters have to find new ways of monetising their services and the pressure on traditional models will grow.

But Dalton’s core argument is for legislation to ensure that new players must deliver high levels of local content to ensure a healthy broadcast industry. Television style content will continue to be vital to our culture, he says. And of course there is the predictable pitch for more ABC funding.

Dalton was tactful, but his speech highlighted the fact that the Government presently has a broadband policy, but not a media policy, and not a content policy. What will be delivered down all those shiny new pipes?

I do not have the answers.  But what I do know is that we need to start having those conversations today.  We need to start developing a forward looking policy framework that will works for the digital age and that balances economic and cultural priorities.

Read the whole speech here.

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