Peter Webb, Digital Broadcasting Australia: 27th
explore the world of digital broadcasting in Australia.
broadcasting and ITV is on everyone's lips, yet few
really understand what the fuss is all about.
attending, and speaking at such media events such
as the Communication Law Centre forum and The Australian
Media Forum, Greg Tingle "tracks down" an
expert in digital broadcasting.
has cleared the fog for us, as the last time we were
close to digital TV is when we were selling the now
defunct Optus Interactive TV, on the ill fated commercial
answers the questions you have been asking.
your background, and that of the DBA (Digital Broadcasting
am a former Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting
Authority, but have been a private consultant to the
broadcasting industry for the past 6 years.
why and why was the DBA formed?
was formed because free-to-air broadcasters, and suppliers
and retailers of consumer electronics equipment acknowledged
their common interest in making the transition from
analog to digital television as seamless as possible
for consumers. It's membership has more than doubled
since it was founded in 2000.
are your main aims and objectives?
wants to help Australian consumers with information
about digital terrestrial television, and it seeks
to do that by equipping retails sales staff with detailed
information. Most Australians will get their information
about digital television from retailers, but we also
work closely with antenna installers, another source
of consumer advice.
have been the major milestones regarding digital broadcasting
television will evolve over quite a long period of
time as the national rollout gradually extends from
metropolitan areas into regional and remote parts
of Australia. A major milestone is obviously the start
of digital television transmissions in an area, starting
with the major metropolitan markets on 1 January 2001.
The introduction of the HD program quotas for broadcasters
first applied to those same markets on 1 July 2003
and that was another big plus for consumers.
does or can, digital TV make a positive difference
in our lives?
do understand how important television is to Australians.
That's why this transition is being watched so closely.
Television needs a technological makeover, so that
it can provide new services and better quality services.
The benefits will evolve over time but they will serve
basically to keep television as a centrepiece in our
does digital broadcasting rank in Australia, compared
to the U.S?
US started over two years ahead of Australia, but
we quickly overtook it in terms of coverage. But the
US system is quite different from ours - cable (and
satellite) television plays a much larger role than
it does here. Australia is making very good progress
with its transition and there is growing interest
being shown by the Australian consumer. Recent sales
figures are very promising.
did the decision to cut off ABC FLY and ABC Kids on
ABC digital effect you?
was disappointed that consumers lost digital television
services that were proving quite attractive.
are your current projects?
has a number of projects on the go, including a new
DVD for display in retail stores - it explains digital
TV and contains information of relevance to every
digital market so it can be used all round Australia.
We will also have a new, detailed handbook for retailers
out in September, together with a new consumer brochure.
The web site is continually updated with heaps of
useful information and it is becoming increasingly
are your main supporters?
do you raise funds?
members pay annual subscriptions and sometimes fund
other, discrete activities.
digital TV broadcasting go "mainstream"
at the same time as iTV from FOX?
terrestrial TV is being implemented in a horizontal
market, not the vertical market in which pay TV operates.
It will take years to fully implement because the
scale of the work that has to be done is enormous.
Interactive TV in a horizontal market will be very
hard to bed down quickly as the necessary technology
is still not available in the Australian market, and
even after it becomes available it will take quite
a while to build up an installed base of receivers
sufficient to justify investment in applications.
Nevertheless, over the long haul the scale of free-to-air
access to iTV is very promising.
you have a working relation with FOX CEO, Kim Williams,
or the group in general?
but that's because we are focussed on free-to-air
television, not because of any antipathy.
cooperation and positive dealing does the DBA have
with the ABA and Communications Law Center?
ABA is a central player in digital TV implementation
and we cooperate with its hard-working officers quite
a lot. I don' think we've had much to do with the
CLC on an organisational basis, although we know the
individuals involved there of course.
consumers be concerned about digital rights issues
- eg taping, "smart boxes" - ie knowing
what your watching, when, what your buying thru the
a free-to-air environment that's one for further down
the track, but consumers already interact with television
programs and broadcasters quite a bit, through SMS,
and seem to handle that OK.
"regular" TV's ever become useless in Australia?
ie like old Beta VCR's etc
Every TV in Australia will be able to see out its
economic life, albeit with the aid of a very cheap
digital STB after analog TV is turned off.
or will consumer enjoy more of less censoring of programs
on Digital TV?
introduction of digital PVRs in STBs will certainly
give consumers lots of power over television - allowing
them to time shift programs effortlessly, pause live
programs etc., but consumers have always been in charge
of their own television viewing. The off switch still
works in a digital world.
kind of services should the consumer of digital TV
be able to enjoy?
adopters of digital TV like the widescreen aspect
ratio, with the extra viewing area, and they like
the much better picture and sound quality. They also
enjoy the extra services - the SBS World News service,
onscreen program guides and 'now and next' information,
and HD programs and surround sound. DBA doesn't like
to promote services that aren't yet being provided
but you will see more multiview services soon - for
the Rugby World Cup and for some summer sporting events.
other important information should we know about digital
not a race and consumers have plenty of time to make
the transition, but there's also plenty of good digital
equipment on the market now and prices are coming
note: That more than answers our questions for the
time being. Thanks Peter.
Going Digital subsite
Digital TV subsite
Network: Digital TV subsite
Man Australia: TV & Radio links
Wilding, Communications Law Center
Budde, Budde Communications
Mulray, The Basement / FOXTEL
Tien, Electronic Frontier Foundation