Thursday, April 20, 2006

Fairfax presses on with digital future | The Australian

A few days old now, but it kind of makes my point for me. Why bother worrying about cross-media ownership laws, having TV owners buying newspapers, or vice versa, when you can get the same result using the internet and bypass the legislation completely?

"AUSTRALIA'S oldest newspaper company, John Fairfax Holdings... is itching to get back into the TV game.

But don't expect Fairfax's activist chairman, Ron Walker, to further stretch the company's balance sheet buying a free-to-air TV station.

Fairfax is hoping to turn itself into a next-generation television network, moving its news and entertainment content across internet sites, mobile phones and, possibly, onto one of the federal Government's proposed new digital channels."

With the appointment of telco veteran Jack Matthews to head Fairfax's second foray into the intuhweb, analysts seem to think the stars are all aligning for a push into the broadband news market.

"(Fairfax CEO David) Kirk said at an ABN AMRO conference in Sydney this month that "video-on-broadband will be an increasing driver of growth, and we will be a leader in video on broadband for our websites". A glimpse into Fairfax's future was seen this month when it sold news video footage (my link - KL) of Sydney murder suspect Gordon Wood to the Nine Network."

"Kirk also said this month that the two new digital channels the Government wanted to introduce next year were "potentially of interest". The channels were previously reserved for datacasting services, but Communications Minister Helen Coonan had said they would be used for a broader range of television services, providing they were not clones of free-to-air TV.

Kirk warned that "if these are stillborn as services because of rules that are too restrictive - just as datacasting was neutered five years ago - then that spectrum will lie fallow for several more years to come". He pointed out that Fairfax had wanted to move into datacasting back in 2000, but ended up being "burned" because the Government limited the types of content allowed to be carried."

Stupid rules to protect existing interests tend to dissuade companies from investing time and money in new technologies. Who would have thought it?

So anyway, there's obvious interest here.

"It's got a long way to go before people turn to mobile phones with tiny screens to watch the races or things like that," Walker told The Australian's Media section this week.

"But ... every media board worth their salt has to be aware of future media (platforms)."

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