Faced with a slow consumer take up of digital TV, Australia has delayed the analog switch off date for terrestrial broadcasting in the capital cities. The major metropolitan areas were to be first with the country stations at undefined later dates.
That is now all out of the window. The Government is saying something different though. They say they are addressing the major electronic media changes and keeping terrestrial TV broadcasting competitive and to move with the times.
The original date for metro TV stations was December 31, 2008, now says Communications Minister Helen Coonan is to fall in a flexible window between 2010 and 2012.
Reviewing the direction of the TV industry, Senator Coonan unveiled government plans to release frequencies to provide the main commercial terrestrial networks, Seven Nine and Ten to have a multicasting channel each. The set target date is 2009. The Minister also said the Government had dropped plans to restrict the type of content the channels would carry.
The rationale for the multicasting move was to enable an element of experimenting with new programming content concepts and to utilise valuable program archives.
This all looks like part of the deal struck with the industry as part of liberalizing ownership and opening up.
Sen. Helen Coonan said the government's proposed reforms will allow the Australian media sector to move from the old analog-based regime into the dynamic new world of digital content, where traditional media co-exist and compete with new delivery platforms.
Should this all come to pass a single company will be able to own TV, radio and print assets in one market. Cross media ownership is currently not permitted. The new environment would permit five independent media groups to operate in Australia's main metropolitan areas and four elsewhere.
Australia's current Labour opposition party see the moves as a recipe for disaster where key media assets in radio, TV and newspapers will come under the same ownership, concentrating rather than allowing more market players.