Digital TV debate continues

The Internet Industry Association has accused the Australian Democrats and the Australian Labor Party of succumbing to commercial pressures and supporting ineffectual datacasting reform.

Although the outcome of the debate, which commenced in parliament on Wednesday night, will not be known until votes have been cast, IIA executive director Peter Coroneos believes the Democrats and Labor will sway in favour of "soft" amendments to the bill -- amendments he believes were designed to simultaneously appease Australia's flailing datacasting industry and free-to-air commercial broadcasters.

Coroneos dismissed Labor's other "hard" amendment option as a politically-driven attempt to feign concern for the IT industry.

He said the federal government's decision to ban datacasting of most commercially viable content genres and to restrict all datacast news content to 10 seconds had drastically reduced the scope of revenue likely to be generated through the datacasting medium.

He believes commercially prohibitive regulations drove Fairfax, News Ltd and Telstra to pull out of datacasting trials recently.

Coroneos said that massive revenues potentially generated through commercial datacasting could see the rapid nationwide rollout of high-speed cable, rather than a gradual rollout of ADSL, which he predicts will take as long as 10 years.

"It's a very cynical piece of legislation," he said.

By allowing the decimation of the datacasting industry's revenue stream, Coroneos believes the Democrats and Labor are tolerating a "fourth-class solution", he said.

Meanwhile, the Australian Information Industry Association's executive director, Rob Durie, released a statement railing against the "too proscriptive" parameters of datacasting included in the current bill. Durie warned that the restrictions on datacasting included in the bill would "impede breakthroughs by small innovative Australian firms".

"We're in danger of showing the rest of the world that we don't get it," he said.

Durie supported Coroneos' dismissal of Labor's "hard" amendment option. Durie believes the hard option is an election-driven attempt to appease Australia's IT industry.

"This is politics, purely," he said.

The Democrats, whose vote will decide which, if any, of Labor's amendments will stand, have not revealed which way they intend to vote.

Hearings are expected to continue today and next week.

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