New Zealand gov’t eyes converged media use

AUCKLAND – New Zealand’s culture ministry is examining how its citizens use electronic media as part of an inquiry into the future of broadcasting as content goes digital.

Firming up information on the country’s “emerging consumption patterns” when it comes to the new media — which were identified in an earlier report by the ministry and the Ministry of Economic Development — will form a major part of the research project.

The earlier report identified an increasing diversity of devices via which broadcasting-like content is both received and used. People shifting audio-visual items from one platform to another was another activity turned up by the report. On-demand calling up of content, rather than people watching programs on a pre- determined schedule, was also identified. The emergence of user-generated content, and the ability to edit and redistribute received content, is another growing trend.

It is now possible to “access broadcasting-like content in a more participatory and flexible environment,” says the brief for the new research project.

“Consumers are able and are increasingly expecting to store, share, create and respond to broadcasting-like content,” it said.

Precisely how we New Zealanders use new media is also of interest, for example, whether on-demand availability leads to “snacking” on content. Also, whether we consume information and programs etcetera on our own or share them and discuss them — either face-to-face or online — is also of interest.

The ministries are particularly interested in young people’s behavior — the 15 to 24 age-group. Although, in the brief to potential bidders, they take care to emphasize that there is no upper age limit for samples used. They are also keen to learn how Maori and Maori-speakers use the new electronic media.

“Technology convergence will offer increased opportunities for broadcasting to contribute to strengthening Maori language skills, and [for] increasing language use and proficiency in the home,” says the proposal document.

“Technology convergence also provides all New Zealanders with information about Maori culture, issues, stories and perspectives.”

Although a lower age limit of 15 is specified, the ministries also want to measure parents’ and carers’ awareness of the content consumed by those under 15 in their household.

The report — scheduled to be finished by the end of July — will add to a growing body of knowledge and opinion on converged broadcasting in New Zealand.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Culture and Heritage used a Radio NZ interview last week to remind the public that it and the Ministry of Economic Development want public opinion on how broadcasting content should be regulated.

One suggestion is that all digital content be regulated through a single body, as happens in Australia.

The latest airing of the idea has sparked comment from InternetNZ’s Jordan Carter and Martin Crocker of Netsafe. To regulate internet content to the same standards of good taste, decency and fairness as those to which the Broadcasting Standards Association regulates conventional broadcasts would suggest a “quite restrictive regulatory framework”, says Carter.

The ministry’s Jo Tyndall says the content regulation discussion and the study looking at broadcasting are not directly connected. But the two will help illuminate general policy regarding converged media. The deadline for responses is April 4.

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