Japan's Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MPT) plans to overhaul broadcasting and telecommunications legislation in a bid to break down regulatory barriers between the country's broadcasting and telecoms sectors.

The MPT plans to make sweeping changes to Japan's Broadcasting Law, Telecommunications Law and NTT Law in a move to encourage convergence. The regulatory body also plans to speed up digitalisation of Japan's communications infrastructure and oversee the introduction of a new low-cost ecommerce service across a range of media platforms.

The process kicks off in May when the MPT intends to set up a panel to study revisions to Japan's broadcasting and telecoms laws. Panel members will include top-level executives from telco NTT, public broadcaster NHK, the commercial networks and leading electronics makers. The study group will issue its recommendations by the end of the 2000 financial year.

The Telecommunications Council, an MPT advisory body, released a report on March 10 calling for legal reforms aimed at unifying the broadcasting and telecommunications sectors, but did not specify content and timing.

Japan currently has no legislation governing telcos' entry into broadcasting over the Internet or broadcasters' moves into delivering phone operators' services. Both sides of the broadcasting and telecoms fence are calling for relaxation of regulatory barriers.

The study group will also try to devise ways to level the playing field between giants such as NTT and NHK and their smaller rivals, and encourage the entry of new players into the broadcasting and telecoms markets.