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High Court rules some broadcasters subject to Telecommunications Development Levy

High Court rules some broadcasters subject to Telecommunications Development Levy

A change to the Telecommunications Act in 2018 brought some broadcasters into the tent.

Tristan Gilbertson (Telecommunications Commissioner)

Tristan Gilbertson (Telecommunications Commissioner)

Credit: Supplied

The High Court has clarified that it is not just telcos that are subject to the Telecommunications Development Levy (TDL), but broadcasters as well.

A judgment issued by the court at the end of last week clarified that  businesses involved in the transmission of broadcasting signals should be required to contribute to the TDL. 

The Commerce Commission sought clarity from the High Court after amendments to the Telecommunications Act in 2018 removed an exemption for “broadcasting” from the definition of “telecommunication”. The other parties involved in the case were Kordia, Sky TV, TVNZ, Optus, and Chorus, as an intervenor. 

Telecommunications commissioner Tristan Gilbertson said the commission had to determine the amount of the TDL paid by industry participants according to a statutory framework in the Act by around December each year and welcomed the clarity that the judgment provided. 

“It was important for us to be able to decide on liability for the TDL with a clear view of whether any of the broadcasters are liable as a result of the amendments to the Telecommunications Act,” he said.

The judgment confirmed that, with the exception of free-to-air broadcasters and satellite providers operating outside New Zealand, businesses involved in broadcasting transmission can be liable to pay the TDL. 

The TDL was established by legislation in 2011 and specified that, the amount that telecommunications providers must contribute would be reduced from $50 million to $10 million a year in 2020.

“The judgment won’t make any difference to the total funds collected by the levy, which is set at $10 million a year, but it will affect the contributions made by individual companies, which is proportionate to their revenue from telecommunications services," Gilbertson said.

“We will now use the guidance provided by the High Court to move ahead and make our TDL determination for 2021/22.” 

Last year, Spark, Vodafone, Chorus, and 2degrees collectively paid around 90 per cent of the levy.

The levy is paid by companies earning more than $10 million a year from telecommunications services. It is used to pay for telecommunications infrastructure and services that are not commercially viable, including the relay service for the deaf and hearing-impaired, broadband for rural areas, and improvements to the 111 emergency service.

The levy was set at $10 million for the 2019/20 year and is adjusted for inflation for subsequent years


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