Friday, October 5, 2007

TV3's Pacific broadcasting 'loophole' dubious

New Zealand's rugby World Cup broadcaster TV3 this week launched a bold 'Pacific loophole' plan to evade strict Sunday morning advertising laws. But doubts remain about the legality. The Ministry for Culture and Heritage says TV3 could still be breaching the Broadcasting Act. TV3 had previously confirmed it would play commercials at this time - starting with tomorrow's quarterfinal between the All Blacks and the host nation France in Cardiff - but had not revealed how it would achieve this within the restrictions in the law. [All Blacks beaten by Michalak's magic]. TV3, in an arrangement with Fiji TV, will be transmitting its entire signal for the event to 18 countries and territories in the Pacific.
The additional countries or territories that the signal reaches are: Tahiti, Cook Islands, Tonga, American Samoa, Samoa, Tokelau, Tuvalu, Niue, Kiribati, Nauru, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea,Guam, The Marshall Islands, Northern Marianas.
There are three requirements in the Broadcasting Act which allow for Sunday morning advertising. The signal for the programme must:
1. Originate outside New Zealand;
2. Be transmitted simultaneously to both New Zealand audiences and audiences outside New Zealand;
3. Be targeted primarily at audiences outside New Zealand.

Who is convinced by TV3's claim about the primary audience outside NZ? It is a wildly optimistic estimate of a potential audience based on population only. And it is a dubious argument to be claiming a combined Pacific population of more than nine million - more than double New Zealand's population, when the critical figure is potential audience. Most of the 18 countries and territories listed have a limited interest in rugby union.
While it is true Papua New Guinea (6.2 million cited by TV3) has a far larger population than New Zealand, the TV audience is very small and the country is primarily a rugby league nation. Eighty percent of the people are rural villagers with limited access to TV and electricity. Various estimates put the potential TV audience for the national broadcaster EM TV (owned by Fiji TV's subsidiary Media Niugini) at between 500,000 and 600,000. The rugby broadcasts would be catering for a relatively small expatriate market and local audience.
There will be strong and enthusiastic audiences in Fiji, Samoa and Tonga, of course, and Tahiti and New Caledonia (and perhaps Vanuatu) would have a keen interest in the France-All Greys quarterfinal at least. But it is hard to see much of a potential audience in some countries and territories such as Guam, the Marshall Islands and Northern Marianas.

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