Senator Stephen Conroy's office has ruled out a possible fourth commercial TV network, looking instead to technologies such as IPTV.
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has released the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy's (DBDCE) initial response to the Convergence Review — the independent review commissioned to examine policy and regulation around converged media and communications.
The headline news is that the so-called sixth channel — the spectrum that could be used for a new television network — will remain free. This means no new free-to-air channel in Australia, which is good news for the community channels currently using the Spectrum, who will keep access to it until December 2013.
Instead, use of the sixth channel will be "considered in the longer term, in the light of the Australian Communication and Media Authority's assessment of future broadcasting technologies". This seems to mean IPTV. In an official media statement, Senator Conroy said:
Online technologies like IPTV are giving people new ways to access content. The low barriers to entry for these online content services and the scope for future innovation mean that, in the long term, these online platforms are likely to be a real alternative to traditional terrestrial television. The rollout of the NBN will further facilitate this.
Existing TV networks came out winners as well, with their fees being kept static for the next 12 months before being dropped by 50 per cent. This is ahead of a push for greater Australian content. Starting 2013, commercial TV broadcasters will need to show 730 hours of local content, increasing to 1095 in 2014 and up to 1460 hours in 2015.