Australians will be forced to pay up to $400 to continue watching television under a plan to convert all viewing to digital technology. The SMH has claimed.

The industry estimates more than 14.5 million TVs would have to be converted to digital reception over the next five years under a recommendation by a federal parliamentary committee to turn off the traditional analog service. To stimulate conversion to digital the cross-party committee recommends lifting bans on networks broadcasting multiple, free-to-air channels by 2008. This opens the prospect of up to 30 free-to-air channels being available to viewers. To get access to the higher-quality, wide-screen services, consumers would need to buy set top boxes ranging in price from $80 for a basic model to about $400 for a better-quality, high-definition receiver.

The committee, chaired by the Sydney MP Jackie Kelly, also calls for an end to restrictions on broadcasting data services such as news and entertainment by the same date. For the rest of the story go to:


Digital television enables better-quality sound, although the signal deteriorates markedly in high winds and in areas affected by aircraft. Increasingly receiver boxes are being sold with digital recorders, which enable easy recording of programs.

All members of the cross-party House of Representatives committee recommended a national 2010 turn-off date for analog.

Australia has, until recently, lagged other countries in its take-up of digital television. The industry body Digital Broadcasting Australia estimates 1.3 million digital televisions or receivers have been bought as of January 1 this year. Half this number was brought in 2005.

It says 15.5 per cent of Australia’s 7.6 million homes can receive digital TV.

Ms Kelly’s committee noted that penetration in Britain was 63 per cent, Germany 25 per cent, Italy 17.7 per cent and the US 15 per cent.

While Australians are beginning to buy into the digital-TV age – mostly through plasma and LCD screens – they also continue to buy cheaper analog televisions in record numbers, with the average home now having at least two television sets.

The original turn-off for analog TV was due to begin in 2008, although the committee found widespread acceptance that this was not feasible.

The report found digital take-up had been impeded because viewers were not convinced they would get value for money and were unaware that the current system would be switched off at some time in the future.

The Minister for Communications, Helen Coonan, is expected to endorse a not dissimilar turn-off timetable when she releases her long-awaited paper on media ownership, now expected next week.

But Senator Coonan is likely to phase any turn-off, probably starting in Sydney. She is also under pressure from the Nine and Ten networks as well as Foxtel to continue the restrictions on multi-channelling.

Foxtel has argued that any relaxing of the ban on commercial television multi-channelling should be linked to a dropping of the rules that limit Foxtel’s ability to show live sport.

The Government’s commitment to digital is set to be tested. News Ltd and PBL are expected to support Senator Coonan’s changes to ownership and new services, providing they do not impinge on current revenues.


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