Australia Passes Digital Switchover Legislation

Friday, June 25th, 2010

The Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, has welcomed the passage through Parliament yesterday of the Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Digital Television) Bill 2010.

The Bill establishes the legislative framework for the provision of the new Viewer Access Satellite Television service (VAST) for digital television blackspot areas, and addresses a range of other digital TV switchover related matters.

“The Government is providing $375.4 million over 12 years to fund the new digital television satellite service,” said Senator Conroy.

The satellite service will provide viewers in remote areas and those in reception blackspots with access to the same number of digital television channels, including multi-channels – such as ABC2, ABC3, SBSTwo, 7Two, Go! and OneHD – as is currently available in the capital cities.

It will also carry the new ABC 24 hour news channel when it is launched later this year, and will provide access to the local news from regional commercial television broadcasters via a dedicated news channel.

“This is a fantastic outcome for viewers in regional, rural and remote Australia, many of whom have put up with poor reception and a very limited choice of television services for many years,” Senator Conroy said.

Senator Conroy said the legislation introduced a number of measures to assist regional commercial television broadcasters in the smaller regional markets of regional South Australia, Griffith and Broken Hill to provide an increased number of digital channels on their terrestrial services.

Commercial broadcasters have indicated a willingness to convert some community-operated self-help transmission facilities to digital or establish new in-fill transmission sites for the delivery of their digital television services to more viewers in their licence areas. The legislation includes measures that will clarify the arrangements for converting or establishing these new services.

The legislation also implements the recommendations of the report, Content and Access: The future of program standards and captioning requirements on digital television multi-channels, which was tabled in Parliament on 3 June 2010.

The current exemptions from the Australian Content Standard, Children’s Television Standard and captioning requirements on multi-channels will be extended until digital switchover is completed nationally, with a further review of the application of content and captioning rules to be conducted before 31 December 2012.

“The Australian Communications and Media Authority will be empowered to develop technical standards that will make it possible for viewers to receive services additional to commercial and national television – such as community and narrowcast services – using the same set-top box as is used to receive VAST,” Senator Conroy said.

“The Government is committed to improving the choice and quality of digital television services for viewers in regional and remote Australia as we move towards digital switch-over.

“The legislation will, for the first time, ensure broadcasters are able to deliver the full suite of free-to-air digital television services to every viewer in Australia, wherever they live,” Senator Conroy said.

More: Digital dividend