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The Nine Network which is suing Ice TV in the Australian Federal Court over the creation of EPG content appears to have had a change of heart following the commercial television industry’s decision to embrace the digital era by launching a free electronic program guide (EPG) covering all free-to-air channels within three months.

First tipped by SHN last month the new EPG service appears to be a monopoly among free to air TV stations, as both Foxtel and several makers of set top boxes that allow content to be recorded and then played back with advertising being skipped are being denied access to the service. A spoksperson for the Nine Network was not available to comment.

The commercial station service, which enables consumers to automate the recording of their favourite TV shows on all free-to-air networks using digital recording platforms, is expected to boost TV viewing by making it easier for people to watch shows when it suits them.

According to The Australian newspaper, the launch implies tacit support from the Nine and Ten networks, as well as regional players such as Prime and WIN, for the Seven Network-backed TiVo digital video recording platform, which will have access to the program listings, along with other DVRs, if manufacturers agree to certain conditions.

 

Free TV chief executive Julie Flynn told The Australian newspaper the program listings would be available to makers of set-top boxes, DVRs and other services, if they complied with conditions including not allowing commercials to be skipped.

“This is for anyone who wants to provide (an EPG) for the free-to-air platform,” Ms Flynn said. “We are not concerned about fast-forwarding (of commercials) but we are certainly not keen on ad-skipping per se.”

She said the industry had taken legal advice and believed it was not contravening competition laws by excluding Foxtel.

“We’re an open, horizontal platform,” she said. “They have a different set of arrangements for being on the Foxtel EPG because they’re a closed subscription service. Discussions with pay-TV about an EPG are, as they have been, a matter for individual organisations.”

Foxtel corporate affairs manager Rebecca Melkman said the company believed it should be able to access the program guide listings. “They’re saying they will provide it to all consumers,” Ms Melkman said. “We’re looking forward to them supplying to it to the one in four households that have Foxtel.”

Government-funded broadcasters such as the ABC and SBS are expected to make their data available on the EPG, along with existing digital channels and future free-to-air multichannels.

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