Major Vendors Tell Fed Gov What To Do With Digital TV

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Major lifestyle technology vendors including Sony, Panasonic and LG have all made submissions to the Federal Government on Digital TV. LG has told the committee investigating the proposed turn off of analogue TV that its conclusion may “surprise” members, while Sony has called for the integration of tuners into all TV sets. More than 60 submissions were made to the Government.

 Sony believes that manufacturers should integrate digital tuners in all televisions sold in Australia. This move, it says, would ensure further consumer take-up of DTV. For broadcasters, the resulting sizeable and increasing DTV/HD customer base will provide an ability to offer new and differentiated digital services to consumers. This will contribute strongly to the Government’s policy objective of digital conversion.

 Sony has had some experience of the requirement to offer inbuilt digital tuner televisions (IDTV), and the commercial advantages of supplying IDTV equipment. Sony, and other suppliers, are now introducing IDTV models into the US market in compliance with the FCC’s requirement that all newly manufactured TV sets will have to progressively (over a five-year period) include digital terrestrial tuners. It is Sony’s view that requiring equipment manufacturers to supply IDTVs will help drive a more rapid uptake of digital TV in Australia. Moreover, the US approach which requires a progressive and scaled roll-over to IDTV provides a useful model for Australia to consider. In addition to setting a schedule for mandating the integration of digital tuners, Sony believes that there should be a mandated requirement for all IDTVs and STBs to decode both HD and SD signals.

 Director of the Consumer Electronics Group at Panasonic Australia, Graham Day, believes that the uptake of ‘Digital Television’ products has not achieved expectations. He claims that with the exception of SBS and ABC, the legislation doesn’t allow broadcasters to take full advantage of Digital TV technology because of programming issues. In a letter to the Federal Government, he says that this issue could be addressed by allowing limited multi-channelling capabilities to the commercial broadcasters whilst maintaining the HD mandate. “Adoption of limited-multi-channelling can be seen as an additional driver for the consumers to adopt Digital Television,” he says.

 Day claims that another driver for the market would be additional services, such as interactivity. However, he warns that Panasonic Australia cautions this proposal due to the constraints of non-existence of a testing and conformance centre and the availability of Over the Air Downloads (OAD). Panasonic claims that currently there are many issues in the market with product and broadcasters not being 100 percent compatible. This can be addressed by the adoption of an independent industry body which can evaluate suppliers’ product and broadcasters’ transport streams against industry references.

Panasonic claims that OAD would allow numerous third-party software products to interact with consumers’ Digital TV devices. “To maintain consumer confidence and reliability in this type of system, we can see the only option to service this need is the adoption of a responsible OAD system, overseen by a testing and conformance centre”, says Day.

 Panasonic Australia recognises the decision made by the United States of America to mandate the inclusion of Digital TV reception capability in Television products. “We would therefore recommend investigation of the success of this decision with the view to adopting a similar procedure for Australia” says Day. Quallity, says Panasonic, has been addressed since the introduction of the HD mandate and it supports the on-going implementation of programmes broadcast in High Definition, which fulfil the desire of those consumers who appreciate the best possible picture and sound quality.

LG Marketing Manager, Paul Jenkins, told the Federal Government Committee investigating Digital TV that the conclusion reached by LG may take some committee members by surprise, given the focus within its business to offer high definition digital televisions to the Australian consumer market. “The conclusion LG reached is that the best interests of the wider Australian public would be best served by reconsidering the timetable for the phase-out of analogue services,” says Jenkins. “Having considered the potential challenges of sticking with the current timetable, we think most Australians are not yet ready for the move. Yet, in considering a revised phase-out timetable, we encourage the current framework to remain in place. Government, industry and consumers have already marked down 2008 as the time for the transition. For this reason, we argue the sale of analogue televisions should cease by the time 2008 arrives. The actual shut down of analogue signals should follow some time after. Perhaps, as we have said in evidence to the Inquiry, by a point in 2010.”

 

If you have an opinion on Digital TV email me at dwr@4squaremedia.com

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