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ABA NR 93/2000

NR 93/2000
29 December 2000

Digital TV to commence on 1 January 2001

Digital TV will commence in Australia on 1 January 2001. Twenty-five new digital transmitters (five each in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth) will switch on, signalling the beginning of the biggest revolution in television since the change from black and white to colour TV in the 1970s.

"Digital TV holds out the promise of better quality pictures and sound, multi-channelling, program enhancements and interactivity for television viewers," said Professor David Flint, ABA Chairman. "Over the past two years, the ABA has been laying the groundwork for this new technology by planning the channels the digital services will use. Broadcasters have been investing in the infrastructure for its delivery. And manufacturers have been grappling with the standards and specifications for digital receivers and monitors."

For most viewers, the switch on of Australia's digital television transmission network on 1 January 2001 will have no immediate appreciable impact. This is because the existing analog television transmission network will continue to operate, for at least the next eight years. However, when any new transmitter is switched on, it can cause interference to some existing services. Broadcasters have therefore been testing their new digital transmitters over the past few months to identify and deal with any interference problems.

Both the analog and digital transmission networks will use channels in the VHF and UHF parts of the broadcasting services bands. Having two transmission networks operating simultaneously means the ABA has had to find more than twice as many channels for television broadcasting. This has required the ABA to use a number of channels in the broadcasting services bands which have not previously been needed for television broadcasting.

"Preservation of the current analog reception environment is of paramount concern for the ABA," said Professor Flint. "If the switch on of the new digital transmissions results in any interference to the reception of existing analog services by viewers, the ABA expects the television industry to deal with the problem."

"The television industry has proved to be very responsible in dealing with these kind of issues in the past and the ABA is pleased to note the industry's plans for managing the possible impact on viewers of digital transmissions."

"As a safety net, the ABA has developed an Interference Management Scheme which, as part of the Technical Planning Guidelines, is a condition of every broadcaster's licence. The Interference Management Scheme was determined on 22 December 2000, with further amendments to be made by the end of January to incorporate more comprehensive provisions related to VCRs. This is to allow the finalisation of an industry agreement on ways to deal with this issue. Under the scheme the ABA has the power to direct a broadcaster to either turn down, or turn off the digital service if that service is causing severe interference to existing analog services."

Further information can be obtained at the ABA web site, www.aba.gov.au and the Digital Broadcasting Australia web site www.dba.org.au.




Backgrounder

Interference Management Scheme

The ABA has developed an Interference Management Scheme (the scheme) to outline a digital licensee's responsibilities regarding interference occurring to analog television transmissions that are caused by digital transmissions.

The scheme has been included as part of the ABA's Technical Planning Guidelines, which are developed under section 33 of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992. It is designed to ensure that a viewer's analog television service is protected from interference from digital transmissions, and when such interference does occur, resolution is achieved in a timely manner.

The scheme applies to commercial television digital broadcasting or datacasting transmitter licensees and is enforceable as a licence condition under the Radiocommunications Act 1992. The ABA is also intending to liaise with the Australian Communications Authority about making the scheme enforceable for national digital broadcasters.

Comments and submissions on the draft scheme were required by 8 November 2000. Following the receipt of submissions, further changes to the scheme have been made. The ABA sought comment on these changes by 8 December 2000. All comments were considered prior to finalisation of the scheme on 22 December 2000. The scheme is in effect from 22 December 2000 prior to the commencement of digital television services on 1 January 2001. The scheme is available from the ABA's website www.aba.gov.au or Freecall 1800 810 241.

Video cassette recorders

In some areas of Australia where the ABA has planned for digital TV and datacasting services, viewers who receive their television signals though their video cassette recorder (VCR) may experience some interference to their TV reception.

This may occur in areas where a viewer's VCR is connected to a TV set via a RF (radiofrequency) connection rather than an AV (audio/video) connection and the VCR output channel is being used for a digital TV or datacasting channel.

There are a number of ways this could be fixed and these will be different in different parts of Australia. Consumers will be advised of retuning options through a public education campaign.

Consumer education

The television industry will be running consumer education campaigns in areas where viewers may experience interference. These campaigns may include letterbox drops of consumer guides for viewers, freecall numbers for viewers to call for assistance in retuning TVs and VCRs. For general interference complaints viewers should contact the national interference hotline on Freecall 1800 016 009 for advice and assistance on interference issues.

A consumer education campaign commenced in Brisbane earlier this month. All households should have received a written consumer guide with details of what to do if viewers experience interference. If viewers require further assistance they can call 1800 55 22 88 (freecall). Please note this number will only be assistance to people in the Brisbane viewing area.

The following table outlines the areas where the ABA has planned services on UHF channels 36, 37 and 38. These are the most common default output channels for VCRs.

Area UHF channel(s) Type of service* Service likely to commence

Adelaide

36

Datacasting*

Unknown

Ballarat

36

WIN analog

15 January 2001
Bendigo

38

BCV (Ten Victoria) analog

17 November 2000

Brisbane 36 SBS digital 30 January 2001
Brisbane

37, 38

Datacasting*

Unknown

Central Coast, NSW

36

ABC, SBS digital

Unknown

Darwin

37

Possible third commercial television service - digital

Unknown

Gippsland

37

GLV (Ten Victoria) analog

28 August 2000

Newcastle 36,37,38 NBN, ABC, SBS digital mid 2001
Perth 38 Datacasting* Unknown
Wollongong 36,37,38 WIN, CTC, CBN digital Mid 2001

* Licences for datacasting services have yet to be auctioned. The Australian Communications Authority plans to auction these in the first half of 2001.

Pay TV set top boxes

If pay TV subscribers still have problems receiving their pay TV service after retuning their VCR, they should contact their pay TV provider for assistance.

Digital Broadcasting Australia

Digital Broadcasting Australia (DBA) is an organisation that has been formed to help make the transition from analog to digital TV as seamless as possible for the consumer. It includes representatives from free to air broadcasters, manufacturers and suppliers and retailers. The ABA is an adviser to DBA's Consumer and Retailer Education Committee.

DBA aims to help consumers with information about digital TV commencement dates and coverage, the functionality and availability of equipment, retailer locations and the range of television programs and enhancements to be broadcast. DBA will also encourage training programs for sales staff, service technicians and antenna installers.

The DBA web site, www.dba.org.au, is a good source of information about these and other digital TV issues.

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Last update: 31 August 2007 12:11