Ever since the ill-fated government policy on digital TV was launched we have been extremely vocal in our opposition.
Back in 1998 we warned that the ABA’s advice to the government was totally wrong and that departing chief Peter Webb had provided the free-to-air broadcasting industry with a ‘golden’ monopoly on digital TV.
We have made submissions to the various Inquiries and discussed the issue on radio and TV, as well as in the printed press. The Productivity Commission spent many millions of dollars on an exhaustive Inquiry and reached the same conclusion. Yet the government has ignored all this advice and persisted in following the directions of the ABA.
There are only two companies in Australia who are happy with the current policy – Channel 9 and Channel 10 – and for the benefit of these two companies the government is turning digital TV into a totally non-viable industry through its absurd triple standard solution, non-standardised and very expensive audio standard and the most incredible TV content divisions ever invented. The result is that it will be impossible to deliver multichannel services and interactive service – and this, after all, is what digital TV is all about.
Senator Alston is claiming that the proposed triple standard will be affordable to all Australians. Yet even the most basic format will cost the consumer $1000, compared with $300-$500 in Europe and the UK. There is no way that any manufacturer will be able to deliver a more competitive product and there is no way that anyone will want to spend $1000 on a product that has no consumer appeal whatsoever.
Until recently Senator Alston was raving about HDTV as being the most fantastic development since the invention of the wheel. If this is so, why were less than 3,000 of these ground-breaking HDTV sets sold globally last year? Get real, Senator, and scrap HDTV.
Initially the industry conducted its lobbying campaign in a very cautious and restrained manner, in an effort to influence the government to change its policy. Now, finally, their voices are being raised in loud complaint. I predicted last December that the government would perceive that it was on the wrong track and would change directions but, as we know, it is very difficult for our elected leaders to admit they were wrong. And so, ignoring the wishes of the majority of its voters, the government appears to be going ahead with the implementation of a totally unworkable and commercially unviable model – in the process derailing digital TV in Australia for the foreseeable future.
Currently the Senate is looking at the issues involved and it is to be hoped that they will see the light and immediately scrap the current policy. The normally very conservative manufacturing industry is now also loudly arguing against the policy, as is the pay TV industry and the datacasting industry.
The government is in total isolation. Surely it must be wondering if two TV stations are worth all this trouble!
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