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Delays to Australian digital TV switch likely

Australia's full switch to digital television could be delayed until 2011 due to a slower than expected take up rate with consumers.

Australia's full switch to digital television could be delayed until 2011 due to a slower than expected take up rate with consumers.

Digital and analog signals are currently being simulcast around Australia. Analog broadcasting is scheduled to cease at the end of 2008 in the five main metropolitan markets. Analog signals in regional markets are scheduled to switch-off by the end of 2011. But the Federal Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts Senator Helen Coonan says the 2008 deadline to switch to digital now seems "unachievable".

"Given the current level of digital take-up, an analog switch-off date of 2008 in metropolitan areas seems unachievable. We need a Digital Action Plan to drive digital take-up and a plan for the transition to the point where Australia will be ready to end the expensive simulcast period," Senator Coonan said.

The Government yesterday released an issues paper to examine digital television in Australia, with the aim of formulating a Digital Action Plan to drive take up. One of the ideas discussed in the paper is to push back the analogue switch off to 2011 for both metropolitan and regional areas.

The issues paper raises several ideas to increase digital television take up in Australia, although it stresses that the Federal Government may not necessarily adopt them. Some of the suggestions raised include forcing broadcasters to conduct public information campaigns, mandating that television manufacturers include digital tuners in future models, government subsidies to lower the cost of a set top box and more.

Submissions are now being called for in response to the issues paper, which is available here. Submissions in response to the issues paper should be made to the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts by Tuesday 8 November 2005.

According to Digital Broadcasting Australia figures, only 12 per cent of households in areas where all digital services are available own digital receivers while household take-up across all television households is around 10 per cent. Digital television was launched in metropolitan areas in 2001.