Friday, June 30, 2006

New Zealand: Jan 2007 for Digital Broadcasting

During the hectic BroadcastAsia 2006 exhibition last week in Singapore, a major regional broadcasting decision was unveiled.

The government of New Zealand announced the country is to go free-to- air digital TV from January 2007.

The move will affect terrestrial broadcasters, Television New Zealand (TVNZ), CanWest, Maori TV, the TAB and Radio New Zealand.

The broadcasters, who have forged an alliance called FreeView, have leased satellite space to make the conversion.

TVNZ CEO Rick Ellis, said the announcement is the culmination of a lot of hard work over several years. Ellis said the level of co- operation among free-to-air broadcasters has been unprecedented.

Broadcast Communications Limited (BCL) will deliver transmission capability, and the concept has been finalised with a great deal of constructive dialogue with the New Zealand Ministries of Economic Development, and Culture and Heritage.

TVNZ has already been prepariung for the analog to digital conversion, working on new programming and channel options.

The government said the move from analog to digital TV will offer viewers a clearer and cleaner picture, fewer reception problems - including clearer radio signals - and access to more channels once they are introduced.

The move will require New Zealand consumers to purchase a set-top box similar to that used for the current pay-TV operation of Sky Television.

In some areas a satellite dish may be required.

It is estimated the set-top boxes will cost up to NZ$200 (US$125) initially, with satellite dishes costing around NZ$400 (US$249).

There will not be further subscription costs on top of the purchase of a set top box.

The government has budgetted for NZ$25 million (US$15.56 million) to help establish FreeView. The bulk of costs are however to be met by broadcasters.

Frequencies have already been reserved by the government at no cost for access to the digital broadcast signals. The government puts a value of NZ$10 million (US$6.2 million) on the cost free signals to the broadcasters.

The time frame for analog transmission switch off could be as far out as the year 2022.

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