- Digital terrestrial television in Australia
Digital terrestrial television in Australia commenced on 1 January 2001, in the country's five most populous cities, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth using DVB-T standards. A transition plan to replace Analogue PAL transmissions began in 2010 and is scheduled for completion in 2013. Digital services are available in most areas, however parts of Western Australia, and Central Australia have yet to begin transmissions.
The new means of broadcast has brought with it a number of enhancements, primarily higher-quality picture and sound, but also datacast and multi-view services such as video program guides, high definition, and now-and-next program information. There are a number of additional channels, datacasting, as well as high definition services, available to digital terrestrial television viewers in Australia. Digital-only content is subject to availability and differs greatly in various television markets.
Although approximately 96% of the population has access to at least one digital service, take up was initially sluggish, with only 28% of Australia's 7.8 million households having adopted free-to-air digital television by March 2007. However, by August 2010, 75% of Australian households had made the switch.
From 2009, the free-to-air digital television platform has been promoted under the Freeview name.
- 1 History
- 2 Content
- 3 Channels
- 4 Government labelling scheme
- 5 Analogue switchoff
- 6 Freeview
- 7 Controversy
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Planning for digital terrestrial television in Australia can be traced back to 1993, when a group of specialists was drawn from the then-Australian Broadcasting Authority, Department of Transport and Communications, in addition to broadcasters and manufacturers. The ABA Specialist Group was intended to bring together studies taking place in a number of Australian forums and investigate potential options and policies relating to digital television.
In 1995 the group released a report, Digital Terrestrial Broadcasting in Australia, containing the preliminary conclusions of the group. It found that premature regulation of the new platform may stifle the market-driven development of the service, that it should be based upon existing standards, and should not restrict the ability of broadcasters to tailor local content. It was too early at the time to make decisions relating to what standard should be used, when transmissions should commence, and whether analogue television should be phased out.
The final report, of the same name, was released in 1997. It recommended that Australia should adopt a single system following detailed trials of potential systems, that it should be implemented with high definition capabilities from the outset, that each licensed commercial or public service should have access to a full 7 MHz channel for its services, and that the eventual termination of analogue PAL services should be driven by market factors and subject to regular review. The year 2000 was highlighted as a potential target date for the commencement of permanent digital terrestrial broadcasting.
Australian LCN Allocation Primary User Allocated Numbers from 2008
(Standard Digital broadcasting,
Satellite/Cable Digital broadcasting)
Network Ten 1, 10-19, 100-149 ABC Television / ABC DiG 2, 20-29, 200-299 SBS Television / SBS Radio 3, 30-39, 300-349 Datacasting
4, 40-49, 450-499 Southern Cross Ten
and other Network Ten regional affiliates
5, 50-59, 550-599 Prime Television,
Southern Cross Television
and other Seven Network regional affiliates
6, 60-69, 650-699 Seven Network 7, 70-79, 750-799 WIN Television, NBN Television
and other Nine Network affiliates
8, 80-89, 850-899 Nine Network 9, 90-99, 950-999 Unallocated Channels 350-399
The Australian Broadcasting Authority's response, titled Digital Terrestrial Television Broadcasting, recommended that the Australian Government support the early introduction of digital broadcasting as a free-to-air service with the loan of a 7 MHz channel for each broadcaster, in order to enable high-definition television from the outset. The Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations supported this, as well as freedom for its members to launch multi-channel services. At the same time, the Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association, questioned the commercial viability of HDTV, were opposed to the idea of multi-channeling, and argued for a competitive system that would allow the entry of new players.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation stated that it wished to run up to four multichannels at different times of the day or alternatively offer an HDTV service. It claimed that up to $100 million would be needed to prepare for these services, half of which would need to be government-funded. Other interested parties, such as internet service provider OzEmail argued for the provision of spectrum for interactive services, while Telstra, shareholder in the subscription television provider Foxtel, supported ASTRA's argument for a competitive bidding process for digital spectrum.
On 24 March 1998, Minister for Communications, the Information Economy and the Arts, Senator Richard Alston, announced the government's decisions for the introduction of digital television. The plan allowed commercial and public broadcasters 7 MHz of spectrum free of charge for 8 years to simulcast services in both digital and analogue, after which it was to be returned to the Commonwealth. Digital terrestrial television was to commence on 1 January 2001 in metropolitan areas, with expansion to regional areas to have been completed by the start of 2004.
Following this, commercial broadcasters would be required to provide minimum levels of high definition content, will be required to pay fees if they chose to provide datacast services, and would be prohibited from using their spectrum for multichanneling of subscription services. In addition, the prohibition on new free-to-air broadcasters would be extended until December 2008.
Amendments were subsequently made to the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 and the Radiocommunications Act 1992, which set out ownership and programming conditions for broadcasting licenses (administered by the ABA) and regulated the usage of spectrum, respectively.
On 18 June 1998, the Digital Terrestrial Television Broadcasting Selection Panel announced the choice of the European DVB-T system for digital terrestrial television. The panel was a group of representatives from the country's public, commercial and regional broadcasters, the Department of Communications, the Information Economy and the Arts, as well as the Australian Broadcasting Authority.
When digital television launched on 1 January 2001, the majority of households did not know of or were unable to buy a set top box in order to receive the signal. Digital Broadcasting Australia was established in late 2000 to help make the transition to digital television as seamless for consumers as possible. It includes representatives from free-to-air broadcasters, manufacturers, suppliers, and retailers and was intended to provide information about commencement dates, coverage, and the functionality and availability of equipment.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation launched in August 2001 the ABC Kids Channel and Fly TV. The two multichannels, available only through digital means, showed a range of programming targeted at younger and teenage viewers. Similarly, the Special Broadcasting Service launched the SBS World News Channel in 2002, a digital-only service offering a number of foreign-language news programmes seen in its morning WorldWatch timeslot.
Funding issues meant that in May 2003 the Australian Broadcasting Corporation closed ABC Kids and Fly TV. In the same year, Tasmanian Digital Television became the first digital-only commercial station to be launched in the country, under Section 38A of the Broadcasting Services Act. The new station was a joint venture between existing commercial networks Southern Cross Broadcasting and WIN Television. Tasmanian Digital Television, affiliated to Network Ten, was initially available only in Hobart, before expanding to Launceston and, by early 2009, the remainder of the state. The introduction of this fifth channel resulted in significantly higher digital television takeup in Tasmania than other parts of the country.
ABC2, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's second attempt at a digital-only channel launched on 7 March 2005. The service showed a range of repeated news, current affairs, children's and educational programs originally shown on ABC1 as well as a number of original programs launched later on, such as Australia Wide, Short and Curly and Late Night Legends.
Mildura Digital Television, a joint venture digital-only Network Ten affiliate similar to Tasmanian Digital Television commenced in January 2006. The station is owned by WIN Television and Prime Television. A similar channel in Darwin Has been launched on 28 April 2008, by Southern Cross Broadcasting and PBL Media in early 2008. In addition to Darwin Digital Television, the Australian Communications and Media Authority set a designated time for a third digital-only commercial television service in remote and regional Western Australia, on 24 August 2007. Both the WIN Corporation and Prime Television Limited, owner of the Golden West Network, will have until 21 November 2007 to apply for a sole or jointly owned licence.
During September 2007, the three commercial networks announced the introduction of high-definition only channels later that year, becoming the first new commercial television channels to launch in metropolitan areas of Australia since 1988. The Seven Network's Seven HD was the first to launch on 15 October and became available through Prime Television on 29 October. This was followed by the launch of Ten HD on 16 December. The majority of the programming on the high-definition channels is simulcast from the parent channel. On 26 March 2009 TenHD was replaced with a 24/7 sports channel called ONE which will be shown in high definition on digital channel 1 and standard definition on digital channels 11 and 12.
On 23 September the Howard government announced plans, if re-elected after the 2007 Australian federal election, to launch ABC3 - a digital-only children's television service, to be run by the ABC alongside existing multichannel ABC2. In the 2009-10 Commonwealth Budget the ABC was given funding to launch ABC3, which commenced broadcasting from 4 December 2009.
From 2009, commercial broadcasters were allowed to transmit an alternate standard definition channel. On 26 March 2009, Channel Ten launched ONE, its SD multichannel as a 24 hour sports channel. ONE is also broadcast on Ten's HD channel, replacing TEN HD. Nine later launched GO!, as a general entertainment channel skewed towards younger viewers in August 2009. Seven introduced 7TWO on 1 November 2009.
In July 2010 ABC launched its proposed news channel, ABC News 24. In addition, the Seven and Nine networks launched their third channels in September 2010: 7mate from Seven and channel GEM from Nine. Network Ten has announced their third channel, Eleven, for early 2011.
Amateur Digital television
VK3RTV is an experimental Amateur Television repeater located on Mt Dandenong to the east of Melbourne. In late September 2009 the former single analogue channel was converted to a 2 channel digital system. The output of the transmitter is on 446.5 MHz which can be received on many set top digital converters and digital televisions. Both channels are transmitted in standard definition.
Amateur Radio Operators are restricted in terms of the content they may transmit in that the transmission of entertainment is not allowed. However Amateur Radio Operators are nonetheless able to transmit a wide range of educational material related to Amateur Radio & electronics.
A number of broadcasters, primarily commercial networks, have provided a number of digital-only datacast or multivew services on separate channels - in particular during major sporting events. The Seven Network, for instance, provided two additional channels as part of its coverage of the 2003 Rugby World Cup - one providing alternate commentary, the other with statistics and game information. Seven also ran a similar service during its coverage ot the 2004 Summer Olympics showing news headlines, a medal tally, and event results. Similarly in 2005 for the Melbourne Cup, Australian Open, Australian Open Golf, and the One Day International series from the United Kingdom, the Seven Network provided a multi-view datacast service. As well as this, the Nine Network and NBN Television both provided a multi-view service with additional text information during Pompeii: The Last Day.
Digital Forty Four, a trial datacasting service, began in Sydney in 2003. The service included at launch an electronic program guide, ABC News, Sport and Weather datacast service, the Australian Christian Channel, shopping channel Expo and a number of federal parliament audio streams. The service, licensed by the Australian Communications and Media Authority, ceased broadcasting at midnight on the night of 30 April 2010.
Three metropolitan networks once provided video program guide datacast channels in addition to their standard and high definition channels. During ABC2, ABC3 and ABC HD's downtime, the ABC shows program information and weather, with music from ABC DiG radio.
At a minimum, all digital television broadcasters in Australia provide a 576i standard-definition service, in addition to high definition. The 576p50 format is also considered a HDTV format, as it has higher vertical resolution through the use of progressive scanning. When Australia started DVB-T in 2001 several networks broadcast high-definition in a 576p format as this could give better quality on 50 Hz scanning CRT TVs and was not as demanding on MPEG-2 bit-rate. Now that flat-screens are predominating and these have an interlace to progressive scan conversion there is little difference in picture quality. Also MPEG-2 encoders have improved so the more conventional 720p and 1080i formats are now used.
WIN Television in South Australia and Griffith, as well as Southern Cross in Port_Pirie are the only stations that broadcast in digital but do not provide a high-definition service. However this is due to multiple services, WIN Television, WIN Ten and WIN Nine in SA, WIN Television and Prime in Griffith or GTS/BKN, SC10, SC9 and ELEVEN in Port Pirie; using the same digital frequency.
All other commercial stations have 1080i high definition services, in most cases a high definition multichannel providing some differing programming from the main SD channel. ABC Television has a 720p high definition service, which used to run as ABC-HD (simulcasting mostly Sydney's ABC1schedule) but which has now been replaced by ABC News 24. SBS Television currently broadcast a 720p high definition simulcast of their main SBS channel.
Quotas on high definition content - a minimum of 1040 hours per year - were imposed by the Australian government in July 2003 on broadcasters in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. The same requirement was extended in April 2005 to stations in Darwin, regional New South Wales and regional Queensland, and in January 2006 in Mildura. As of 13 July 2007 commercial television networks in Australia were permitted to provide a separate standard definition and high definition channel. As of January 2009, they were permitted 2 standard definition channels in addition to the high definition channel - the networks planned to launch these via Freeview (Australia).
Note: Metro refers to urban, suburban and greater parts of Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane only. Regional covers all other areas, excluding Griffith, Regional Western Australia, Regional South Australia and remote areas. Commercial channels are assigned separate LCNs in regional areas to metro areas, government owned channels have the same LCN nationwide. Not all channels available in all areas.
Channel Name Parent company Broadcast hours Format Type Availability information ABC1 Australian Broadcasting Corporation 24 hours 576i SDTV New Release Programming LCNs 2, 21. ABC2 Australian Broadcasting Corporation 7:00pm to 2:00am 576i SDTV Primetime-only-General LCN 22. ABC 4 Kids Australian Broadcasting Corporation 6:00am to 7:00pm 576i SDTV Pre-School Programming LCN 22. ABC3 Australian Broadcasting Corporation 6:00am to 9:00pm 576i SDTV Childrens 6-15 LCN 23. ABC News 24 Australian Broadcasting Corporation 24 hours 720p HDTV News LCN 24. Seven Network Seven West Media 24 hours 576i SDTV New Release Programming Metro: LCNs 7, 71.
Regional: Branded as GWN in regional Western Australia, SCTV in Tasmania and Darwin and Prime in most other regional areas, LCN 6.
7Two Seven West Media 24 hours 576i SDTV Best-Of-British, General LCN 72 (Metro, Darwin), 62 (other broadcast areas). 7mate Seven West Media 24 hours 1080i HDTV Males 16-49 LCN 73 (Metro), 70 (Darwin), 60 (Tasmania), 63 (other broadcast areas). Television 4 Prime Media Group / Brand New Media 24 hours 576i SDTV Lifestyle, Education, Shopping, Finance LCN 64 (Regional NSW, Regional VIC, ACT, and Gold Coast only). Nine Network Nine Entertainment Co. 24 hours 576i SDTV New Release Programming Metro: LCN 9.
Regional: Branded as Imparja in Central and Remote areas, NBN in northern New South Wales and WIN in most other regional areas, LCN 8.
Go! Nine Entertainment Co. 24 hours 576i SDTV Youth, Movies LCN 99 (Metro), 88 (other broadcast areas). GEM Nine Entertainment Co. 24 hours 1080i HDTV Females 35+, Lifestyle, Crime LCN 90 (Metro), 80 (other broadcast areas). Network Ten Ten Network Holdings 24 hours 576i SDTV New Release Programming Metro: LCN 10.
Regional: Branded as Ten Digital in Tasmania, Mildura, Darwin and Regional Western Australia and Southern Cross Ten in most other regional areas, LCN 5.
Regional: Branded as Ten Digital Remote Central Australia LCN 5.
Eleven Ten Network Holdings 24 hours 576i SDTV Distinctly Youth LCNs 11 (Metro), 55 (other broadcast areas). One Ten Network Holdings 24 hours 1080i HDTV Males 25-54, Sport LCNs 1, 12 (Metro), 50 (other broadcast areas). SBS One Special Broadcasting Service 5:00am to 2:00am 576i SDTV New Release Programming / Foreign Language LCNs 3, 33, 34 SBS One HD Special Broadcasting Service 5:00am to 2:00am 720p HDTV High Definition simulecast to SBS ONE LCN 30. SBS Two Special Broadcasting Service 6:30am to 1:00am 576i SDTV Extra Programming / Foreign Language LCN 32. ABC Dig Music Australian Broadcasting Corporation 24 hours Audio only Radio LCN 200. ABC Jazz Australian Broadcasting Corporation 24 hours Audio only Radio LCN 201. SBS Radio 1 Special Broadcasting Service 24 hours Audio only Radio LCN 38. SBS Radio 2 Special Broadcasting Service 24 hours Audio only Radio LCN 39. TVS 24 hours 576i SDTV Community TV LCN 44 (Sydney). C31 24 hours 576i SDTV Community TV LCN 44 (Melbourne). 44 Adelaide 8:00am to 11:30pm 576i SDTV Community TV LCN 44 (Adelaide). 31 Digital 24 hours 576i SDTV Community TV LCN 44 (Brisbane). West TV 7:00am to 12:00am 576i SDTV Community TV LCN 44 (Perth).
Date of closure Channel Name Notes 30 June 2003 ABC Kids Shared space with Fly TV, axed due to budget cuts. Replaced with ABC2 in 2005. 30 June 2003 Fly TV Shared space with ABC Kids, axed due to budget cuts. Replaced with ABC2 in 2005 25 January 2007 SBS Essential 25 February 2008 MyTalk News and EPG channel, regional areas only. 4 July 2008 Seven Guide EPG channel. 13 November 2008 Nine Guide EPG channel. 11 February 2009 Ten Guide EPG channel. 26 March 2009 Ten HD Replaced with One HD. 1 June 2009 SBS World News Channel Replaced with SBS Two. 6–8 July 2010 ABC HD Replaced with ABC News 24. 25 September 2010 Seven HD Replaced with 7mate. 26 September 2010 Nine HD Replaced with GEM. 15 December 2010 One SD Replaced with Eleven.
Digital 44 suite of channels
The following channels were only available in Sydney as part of the Digital 44 suite of channels.
Date of closure Channel Name Notes c. February 2005 TAB Channel 11 June 2007 Macquarie Digital 30 April 2010 DTV Guide EPG channel 30 April 2010 NITV Still available on Pay-TV. 30 April 2010 Digital 44: ABC News, Sport & Weather Datacast only. 30 April 2010 Digital 44 Homepage 30 April 2010 Teachers TV Launched November 2008. 30 April 2010 Australian Christian Channel Still available on Pay-TV. 30 April 2010 EXPO Still available on Pay-TV 30 April 2010 House of Representatives Moved to Channel 47 c. June 2007. 30 April 2010 Senate Moved to Channel 48 c. June 2007. Unknown House of Representatives Main Committee Room Unknown Committee Rooms 1-4
Government labelling scheme
In April 2009, the government released a new labelling scheme for digital television devices, to help people buy the correct equipment in the transition from analog to digital television. This is unrelated to the Freeview labelling endorsed by the major commercial and public broadcasters and may add to existing confusion between Freeview and Digital TV.
Televisions will have the following labels:
- Digital TV Capable - for analogue TVs which require a set top box
- Digital TV Ready (Standard Definition) - for TVs able to receive SD broadcasts
- Digital TV Ready (High Definition) - for TVs able to receive HD broadcasts
Freeview devices meet the High Definition Digital TV Ready standard, in addition to the other Freeview standards.
Household Assistance Scheme
To aid the digital television switchover, those receiving government assistance payments will be eligible to have a set-top-box provided free of charge to convert to digital television. In addition to set top boxes, the assistance will include any necessary cabling or antenna upgrades needed to achieve a reliable digital signal.
In October 2008, the Digital Switchover Taskforce announced the formalised dates for analogue-switchoff, which began on 30 June 2010 in Mildura and will finish in 2013 when Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and remote areas switch.
Date of shutdown Areas affected Complete 30 June 2010 Mildura 15 December 2010 Rural South Australia
5 May 2011 Rural Victoria 6 December 2011 Regional Queensland 5 June 2012 Southern New South Wales
By 31 December 2012 Northern New South Wales By 30 June 2013 Tasmania
by 31 December 2013 Sydney
Rural Western Australia
Central and Eastern Australia
In November 2008, the Freeview brand was launched with the service commencing in 2009. Freeview brings all free-to-air broadcasters (both metropolitan and regional) together in a consistent marketing push.
Perth community station Access 31's closure was partially blamed on viewers and revenue lost to increasing digital television viewership. The analogue-only station had been campaigning with other Channel 31 stations for support from the Federal Government that allowed them access to the digital broadcast spectrum. On 4 November 2009 Communications Minister Stephen Conroy approved a Digital TV only license for West TV in Perth, which allows them to broadcast as a digital-only community television station as a replacement for the now defunct Access 31.
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- ^ Access 31 looking to a digital future for survival
- Australian Broadcasting Corporation
- Australian Communications and Media Authority
- Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association
- Commercial Television Australia
- Community Broadcasting Association of Australia
- Digital Television For Dummies
- Special Broadcasting Service
- Teachers TV Australia
Free-to-air television in Australia Free-to-air
servicesMain channelsMain affiliatesIndependent affiliatesJoint venture affiliatesCommunity television
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