Digital Broadcasting a step closer

The advent of digital broadcasting in both city and country Australia is a step closer today following the introduction to the House of Representatives of the Television Broadcasting Services (Digital Conversion) Bill 1998 and the Datacasting Charge (Imposition) Bill 1998.

The Minister for Communications, the Information Economy and the Arts, Senator Richard Alston, said the Bills set in place the policy framework for the conversion to digital of free-to-air terrestrial commercial and national broadcasters.

'Digital broadcasting provides a quantum leap in television technology. Viewers will have the option of viewing high definition pictures of startling clarity, and with CD quality surround sound,' Senator Alston said.

'But digital broadcasting offers much more than just better pictures and sound. It provides the capacity for the humble television set to become a central information point in every home.

'Viewers will no longer be limited to looking passively at a box in the corner of the house. Digital transmissions will enable a host of new information to be provided along with the main television programming.'

Senator Alston said the Bills will implement the policy announced by the Government on March 24, with one important addition.

'In recognition of the special circumstances of regional Australia, the Government has decided to conduct a review to determine ways in which regional areas with fewer than three commercial TV services may be provided with the same number of TV services as metropolitan areas,' Senator Alston said.

'However, it is important that all terrestrial TV viewers recognise that digital pictures will only be accessible in more than two and a half years, and that they will continue to have access to their existing analog service until at least December 2008.

'They should also recognise that households will not need to buy a full High Definition Television (HDTV) capable set in order to receive the new digital TV and datacasting services - although an HDTV set will be needed to access the full cinema quality picture of HDTV.

'A standard digital service will be available through their existing analog TV set, with the addition of a digital decoder box of about the same size as a VCR.

'Australians considering upgrading or replacing their existing TV sets should be aware of these facts before finalising their future purchasing plans.'

Media Contact:
Terry O'Connor, Minister's office 02 6277 7480 or 0419 636 879

8 April 1998

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