ultrafast broadband network

Paul Brislen scolds the ComCom

NZ Herald

It is excellent to see Paul Brislen, CEO of TUANZ rip into the Commerce Commission for their investigation of Sky TV’s telco relationships – describing it as a waste of time. Brislen notes that Sky TV’s telco relationships – its contracts, according to Brislen were about ensuring it gets the SAME treatment as any potential competitor. As for the rule that says Sky shouldn’t use its market power to deter competition, what kind of bullshit rule is that? Says Brislen:

“Proving that a powerful business has done something that any other business wouldn’t do in its shoes is almost impossible and in this case Sky TV can argue that these kinds of exclusive deals are simply the standard in the broadcasting world.After all, the commission says there’s no lessening in competition evident should Sky and TVNZ create a joint venture, despite one being the largest pay TV operator in the land and the other being the largest free-to-air TV provider. So that’s that.”

If it’s a waste of time, it’s also certainly a waste of money – with the Commerce Commission’s actions destroying around $150 million of Sky TV’s value in one day in mid May. What expensive costs will the ComCom run up to come back and say “err, actually, we didn’t find anything wrong”.

Brislen outlines the problem – a clash between how the law views Telcos and Broadcasters

Unfortunately, we have a heavily regulated telecommunications sector trying to do business with an entirely unregulated broadcasting sector and that’s beginning to chaff.

Set up a new business selling content online and you are treated as part of the telco regime, but call yourself a broadcaster and use a slightly different technology to deliver the exact same content and the world’s your oyster.

We currently have under way the Commerce Commission investigation into Sky TV, the Telco Commissioner’s study of barriers to uptake of the new ultrafast broadband network (UFB), the review of the media laws in New Zealand with a view to not only sorting out those pesky bloggers but also cyber-bullying (a strange pair of bedfellows if ever there was), a newly minted Copyright Act and attendant tribunal that’s yet to see a single complaint filed, a review of said Copyright Act’s fee structure, a Patent Bill that’s waiting to be passed into law that may upset our trading partner the United States because of its declaration that software cannot be patented in New Zealand, and secret trade negotiations that may or may not give away our rights in terms of intellectual property.

He also touches on a issue that this blog has dealt with – stickybeaking by the Commerce Commission into things they aren’t or shouldn’t be considering – policy (which should be the government’s prerogative)

The Commerce Commission can’t lead this work – it’s a regulatory body, not a policy arm, but without this kind of review we’ll continue shining our torch on disparate parts of the beast without realising we’re staring at the elephant in the room.

It’s time for the National Government to step in and assert policy as its role, and to stop the Commerce Commission wading into issues wrecking investments and company value. The question is, who is going to take responsibility for ruining $150 million of Sky TV’s shareholder value?