Broadcast Australia warns of "sub-optimal spectrum outcomes"

Current Broadcasting Legislation Amendment Bill could see the digital dividend wasted, digital transmission provider Broadcast Australia says

Broadcast Australia has called on the Federal Government to reconsider the costs involved in moving towns and communities onto satellite-based delivery of digital television signals.

Speaking at a Senate Committee into the Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Digital Dividend and Other Measures) Bill 2010, Broadcast Australia chief executive, Graeme Barclay, said satellite-based services should be kept to a minimum.

“The public policy intent and impact [of the measures of the bill] appears to be based on the view that whether a home converts to digital TV through direct-to-home by satellite means or through digital television reception is a matter of little concern to the viewer,” he said.

“We submit that there is a big difference. We believe because it is both more costly and less convenient to receive signals via satellite than terrestrial reception, means that public policy should be directed at achieving a more appropriate balance between terrestrial and satellite deliver of digital television.”

Broadcast Australia provides managed analogue and digital transmission services for television and analogue radio to organisations such as SBS and the ABC.

According to Barclay, satellite-based delivery of digital television was more appropriate for smaller communities, where terrestrial-based services were economically unfeasible.

However, for areas covered by terrestrial signal, homeowners faced a significant cost if forced onto satellite-based services as the sole source of digital television.

“There are real and important consequences for consumers who are compelled to adopt satellite-based TV reception,” Barclay said.

"Even with access to the government’s satellite subsidy scheme, households with a number of TVs and recording devices will incur an increased private cost of digital TV conversion exceeding $1000 on terrestrial coverage.”

Further commenting on the Broadcasting Legislation Amendment, Barclay said the ‘digital dividend’ left from the cessation of analogue television broadcasting had the power to reshape broadcast and mobile broadband spectrum in Australia.

“In our view, the idea that the basic objectives for this once in a generation spectrum planning process are not set out in the legislation is peculiar,” he said.

“Based on the policy settings we have seen so far in relation to the digital dividend, our view is that is that sub-optimal spectrum outcomes will result with direct consequences for the future rollout of digital radio and further innovative free to air TV channels to regional markets and next generation digital terrestrial services to everywhere in Australia.”

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