Television broadcasting in Australia

Television broadcasting in Australia

Television broadcasting in Australia began on the 16 September 1956 in black and white at TCN-9 in Sydney, and has since expanded to include a broad range of public, commercial, community, subscription, narrowcast and amateur stations across the country.

Colour television was introduced in 1975, while subscription television, on the Galaxy platform, began in the mid 1990s. Digital terrestrial television was introduced on 1 January 2001 in Australia's five largest capital cities.

Public television

Australia has three national public broadcasters, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the Special Broadcasting Service, as well as more recently, National Indigenous Television.

Australian Broadcasting Corporation

ABC Television is a division of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, established in 1956. ABC1 and ABC2 are available nationally, in addition to the Australia Network, focused at the Asia-Pacific region.

ABC1 carries a variety of local and national news, current affairs, and sports coverage, as well as Australian arts and comedy programming. It is well known for broadcasting British programming, primarily from the BBC, ITV, and Channel 4.

ABC2, a second 'digital-only' channel began on 7 March 2005. Aimed at providing 'more choice, more often', the channel mainly provided repeats of popular ABC TV productions, such as "Australian Story" and "Stateline", and was prohibited by law from carrying programmes from a number of genres, however, since the removal of these restrictions the channel's content has been broadened considerably. [ cite web
url =,,1925263,00.html
title = Australia opens up media investment
accessdate = 2007-03-31
date = 2006-10-18
work =
publisher =

pecial Broadcasting Service

SBS Television is a division of the Special Broadcasting Service, founded to provide for the estimated 20% of Australians that speak a language other than English in the home, aiming to complement the ABC.

In recent years SBS TV has began to target a broader cross-section of the Australian community, in part because of the emergence of specialty subscription television channels aimed at such minorities. In addition to its free-to-air channels, SBS also has an interest in the World Movies Channel.

SBS shows many non-English language films with English subtitles, and each morning shows news bulletins in foreign languages from around the world in its "WorldWatch" timeslot. In addition to this, a great deal of programming from the PBS, Arte, BBC and CBC, and even Comedy Central are shown.

Acquired entertainment programs include the US animated series "South Park", "Queer as Folk" and "Inspector Rex". In addition to news and current affairs programming such as SBS World News and "Dateline", the network also commissions locally-produced documentaries, movies and comedy programs. Less-popular mainstream sports such as soccer, cycling and athletics are also shown.

The World News Channel has been available since June 2002. The channel shows news bulletins in languages other than English including Indonesian, French, Cantonese, Mandarin, Arabic, and German, amongst others.

National Indigenous Television

National Indigenous Television, funded by the Commonwealth of Australia, is produced in Sydney and broadcast via Imparja Television's existing satellite capacity.

The idea for a national, indigenous television service was initially conceived by the National Indigenous Radio Service (the peak Indigenous radio group), which initially lobbied the government to start a new, nationwide indigenous television network. Although no major political party championed this cause, commercial broadcaster Imparja Television stated in 2004 that it would run such a network, at least within its own license area. [ cite web
title = Services Provision Review
publisher = DCITA
url =
month = July
year = 2004
accessdate = 2007-07-12
] In 2005 the federal Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts considered funding such a station, and conducted a review process.

On 13 July 2007 NITV launched, replacing Indigenous Community Television on the Optus Aurora remote satellite service. [ cite web
title = New Indigenous TV station turns on
publisher = Australian Broadcasting Corporation
url =
date = 2007-07-14
accessdate = 2007-07-13

Commercial television

In order to allow for commercial licensing, the country was divided into a number of license areas. When these were drawn up in the 1950s, each major city or regional area - about 50 in all - was considered its own market region. In each of the five major capitals, three commercial licenses were granted (the exception being Perth which did not receive its third commercial station until 1988 [ cite web
title = The History of Australian Television - The Eighties
publisher =
url =
year = 2006
accessdate = 2007-07-12
] ), while smaller cities or regions were granted a single license.

The process of "aggregation" began in 1989. [ cite web
title = The History of Australian Television - The Nineties
publisher =
url =
year = 2006
accessdate = 2007-07-12
] Regional markets were merged into one and (usually) three licenses were granted in the new, aggregated, area. As some markets were formed by the merger of up to six different individual markets, this meant that some stations had to merge or form partnerships in order to remain competitive. Around the same time, many remote market regions were replaced with two satellite market regions - one for regional Western Australia, and one for remote central and eastern Australia - although each of these regions was only granted two licenses.

Some remained un-aggregated, and are today known as diary markets. [ cite web
title = Regional Television Diary
publisher = Nielsen Media Research
url =
year = 2007
accessdate = 2007-07-15
] Some of these were granted a second license, often to the same company that owned the existing license, while other existing two-license areas were also granted a third license, to a joint venture company formed as a partnership of the two existing broadcasters. Examples of these include Tasmanian Digital Television and Mildura Digital Television, as well as the upcoming Darwin Digital Television service. [cite press release
title = New digital commercial television service for Darwin
publisher = Australian Communications and Media Authority
date = 2007-05-18
accessdate = 2007-06-29


There are three main metropolitan networks, the Seven Network, Nine Network and Network Ten. Although primarily targeted at metropolitan areas, these names are also used in some regional areas (others choose to run the same programming as these stations, but use independent names).

Although the names of the metropolitan stations remain the same across cities, their ownership varies (see below).

Regional and remote

There are a number of regional television networks, including WIN Television, Prime Television, the Golden West Network, NBN Television, Imparja Television, Southern Cross Television, Southern Cross Ten, as well as the Seven Network.

The majority of these stations are seen as clear extensions of the three metropolitan networks, typically made clear through their programming and identification. Stations in two channel markets generally look very much like one of the major commercial networks, with successful programs from a second network added in.

As with some of the major metropolitan stations, local content is often present only in the form of local news bulletin or locally-targeted advertising. The amount of local news provided varies from two-minute updates to full half-hour nightly news bulletins.


The ownership of television stations is divided primarily between a small group of business that includes PBL Media, the Seven Media Group, Ten Network Holdings Limited, the WIN Corporation, the Macquarie Media Group, Prime Television Limited, and Imparja Television Pty Ltd.

"'The relationships between stations and their ownership do not necessarily align:"'


# One company has a monopoly in this area, as the Australian Communications and Media Authority believes it cannot support more than one commercial television company, but it can support two commercial television stations.
# This rural area was not aggregated during the early nineties, unlike most rural areas. This status is now primarily of historic significance.
# Transmission is via satellite for remote areas, and via terrestrial broadcast for more developed areas.
# Tasmanian Digital Television (TDT), a digital only station, began broadcasting in December 2003. Southern Cross Television, as the former sole broadcaster of Seven and Ten network programming in the state, has retained significant Network Ten programming for the benefit of analogue only viewers. It is expected to align fully with the Seven Network once digital television saturation allows for significant advertising revenues via the platform.
# While there are several areas where viewers can receive programs from more than one licence area, the Gold Coast and Batchelor are special cases. Each has dedicated transmitters, on the same tower, for two different regions. Two sets of commercial stations produce dedicated feeds for the Gold Coast. Nine goes so far as to produce a special Gold Coast news service, available only in the area. Similarly, Foxtel and Austar compete on the Gold Coast, the only place in the country apart from Hobart.
# A licence has been issued to the incumbent commercial broadcasters. This is expected to be a Network Ten affiliate. See Darwin Digital Television.
# This is an upcoming television station that is yet to be broadcast.

Community broadcasting

In 1993 the Australian Broadcasting Authority allocated licenses for a sixth television channel for non-profit community and educational use on a trial basis. The groundwork for community television was laid in the Broadcasting Services Act 1992, which defined a new service category, community television, for the first time [ cite web
title = ABA releases spectrum for sixth channel
publisher = Australian Communications and Media Authority
url =
year = 1993
accessdate = 2007-07-14
] .

Prospective community television providers were invited to apply for transmitter licenses, which were granted to groups in Sydney cite web
title = ABA licences community TV in Sydney and Melbourne
publisher = Australian Communications and Media Authority
url =
year = 1993
accessdate = 2007-07-14
] , Melbourne, Brisbane [cite web
title = No Licence for Ipswich Community TV Group
publisher = Australian Communications and Media Authority
url =
year = 1994
accessdate = 2007-07-14
] , Adelaidecite web
title = ABA licences community TV in Adelaide and Lismore
publisher = Australian Communications and Media Authority
url =
year = 1993
accessdate = 2007-07-14
] and Lismore. In February, 1995, the West Australian Community Broadcasting Association was appointed to manage access to the sixth channel in Perth and Mandurah on behalf of groups based in the two cities [cite web
title = ABA licenses community TV in Perth and Mandurah
publisher = Australian Communications and Media Authority
url =
year = 1995
accessdate = 2007-07-14
] .

Licenses were also granted in 1996 to Hobart Access Community Television Inc in Hobart and Bendigo Community Television Inc in Bendigo however these were not renewed. Similarly, a license for BushVision in Mount Gambier was granted in 2005, but it later lapsed. [cite web
title = Community television trial in Mount Gambier, South Australia
publisher = Australian Communications and Media Authority
url =
year = 2005
accessdate = 2007-07-15

Permanent licenses for Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth were allocated in 2004, while trial license remain in effect in Adelaide and Lismore.

The Australian Community Television Alliance, established in March 2008 is the national representative organisation for community television. The CEO of TVS Sydney, Laurie Patton, is the Secretary and represents ACTA on the Federal Government's Digital Switchover Taskforce Industry Advisory Group.

In addition to these, a number of community groups produce programming in regional areas, including Bushvision in Mount Gambier [] , Queanbeyan Canberra Television (QCTV) in Canberra, Hunter Community Television in Newcastle [] , Illawarra Community Television (ICTV) in Wollongong [] and WARP Television in Bathurst.

Groups in a number of areas including Bendigo, Ballarat, Victor Harbour and Hobart have unsuccessfully applied for licences. Aurora Community Television, Australian Multicultural Television, Ballarat Community Cable Television, Channel Vision (Canberra) and Satellite Community TV, although not licensed as community stations, provide similar services.

ubscription television

Three of the four major providers of subscription television in Australia carry a common service; however they have a number of differences. Foxtel currently 'controls' the common service that Austar and Optus resell. This service is known as the Foxtel Platform.

Austar broadcasts into all of regional Australia (except Western Australia), Tasmania and Darwin. Foxtel broadcasts in all capital cities, the Gold Coast, the Central Coast and all of Western Australia. Optus Television operates only in the small parts of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide where it has laid cable.

SelecTV is the fourth provider of subscription television, and is controlled by WIN Corporation. [cite web | author = Griffin, Peter | date =2006-04-24 | url= | title = Satellite viewing options improve | work = New Zealand Herald Online | accessdate =2006-04-28 ] SelecTV is available throughout Australia via satellite and focuses on providing content in comparatively low priced packages to a number of specialised market segments; including Spanish, Greek, and Italian.

There are a number of other services that target specific language speaking groups, and regions in Australia. There are two small region based subscription television providers; TransTV Digital which is available in Canberra; and Neighbourhood Cable which is available in Geelong, Ballarat & Mildura.

There are also a number of satellite services that target specific language speaking groups, the largest being UBI World TV, a non-English language service. GlobeCast TV and Pan Global TV are non-English language, Christian and sport channel platforms that are controlled by GlobeCast (France Télécom). Various operators run their own subscription services on these platforms. In addition, there are other satellite subscription services available through other providers.

National IPTV operators include TPG IPTV.


Datacasting in Australia began as a test transmission in Sydney using one of the reserved digital spectrum positions. Australian broadcast infrastructure company Broadcast Australia are undertaking the three year trial using the DVB-T system. The trial consists of a number of services on one standard 7 MHz multiplex, collectively known as "Digital Forty Four".

The services include; a combined program guide for the free-to-air broadcasters, named Channel 4; a news, sport, and weather datacast channel provided by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation; a government and public information channel, known as Channel NSW, which includes real time traffic information and surf webcams; the Australian Christian Channel; the Expo Channel; and various federal parliamentary audio broadcasts.


There are currently four narrowcast services in Australia:

* GTV-35 (Broome - [ link] )
* iTV-64 (Darwin - [ link] )
* TV Norfolk (Norfolk Island)
* Westlink (Western Australia)

One of the four narrowcast services is Westlink, of which is available to satellite users throughout Australia, and is rebroadcast terrestrially in Bunbury and Albany. The service is funded by the Government of Western Australia and is primarily used for educational purposes but also for teleconferencing, training and corporate services. [ cite web
title = Westlink Regional Development
publisher = Westlink
url =
accessdate = 2007-07-12
] During weekends and on Thursday nights Perth's Access 31 community channel is simulcast on Westlink. [ cite web
title = Report on Access 31 Rural Satellite Pilot
publisher = Westlink
url =
month = December
year = 2002
accessdate = 2007-07-12

Amateur broadcasting

The Australian amateur radio bands include frequencies standard televisions can receive, which have led to amateur radio operators making use of this by broadcasting video.

The amateur television frequency allocation is roughly where UHF-16 can be found (for simplicity we shall refer henceforth to ATV transmissions as being on Channel 16). Channel 16 is usually used for amateur television transmissions, however, sometimes other frequencies are used, especially those used by satellite television services. Most transmissions can be viewed and heard on an analogue television, but some transmissions require additional or other equipment.

New South Wales

Television Gladesville (VK2TVG) in Sydney conducts three test transmissions per week on Channel 16, including a three hour live to air program on Wednesday nights. [ cite web
title = Transmission Times in Sydney
publisher = Television Gladesville
url =
date = 2005-11-03
accessdate = 2007-07-12

The Central Coast Amateur Radio Club also has an amateur television repeater (VK2RTG) on Channel 16. [ cite web
title = Central Coast Amateur Radio Club
publisher = CCARC
url =
accessdate = 2007-07-12

VK2RTS broadcasts from Lawson near Katoomba on Channel 16. Club aactivity is on Monday nights between 8pm and 10pm.A Voice liaison and control frequency of 147.325 MHz (+600 kHz duplex) is used.

VK2RFM broadcasts from Oakdale near Camden on 1250 MHz FM which can be viewed with an analog satellite receiver.Club activity is Tuesday nights between 8pm and 10pm. The liaison and control frequency is 147.400 MHz simplex.

Both repeaters cover the entire Sydney basin. They are operated by the Sydney Amateur Television Group and may be activated and used at any time from the control channels. [ cite web
title = Sydney Amateur Television Group
publisher = SATVG
url =
accessdate = 2007-12-03

UHF TV Channel 35 was used until July 2001 when the Australian Communications and Media Authority reassigned the channel for digital television.


VK3RTV is Melbourne's main amateur television station, and is available via Channel 16 at the lower end of the UHF TV Band (below channel 28). The amateur television repeater is located on Mt Dandenong. [ cite web
title = Melbourne Amateur TV Group
publisher = VK3RTV Online
url =
accessdate = 2007-07-12

There are a small number of amateur television enthusiasts (amateur radio operators with Television transmitting equipment) who transmit to Melbourne and surrounds via VK3RTV.

title = VK3KHB's TV Broadcasts
publisher = Amateur Radio & Television
url =
accessdate = 2007-07-12


A VK4RTV test panel was broadcast through UHF signals for a brief period in December 1999. In 2002, another Amateur television service was stationed in the Brisbane suburb of Ocean View.


External links

* [ Australian Television Idents]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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