5 December 2000
Variation of Commercial Television Digital Conversion Scheme
The Australian Broadcasting Authority has released a draft variation to the Commercial Television Conversion Scheme. The variation incorporates necessary changes as a consequence of amendments to the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 relating to digital television.
Among the proposed changes to the scheme is the requirement to simulcast in standard definition digital mode, permission for a broadcaster to submit one or a series of implementation plans and changes to the ABA's planning powers once the analog/digital simulcast period ends.
The ABA is responsible for managing the conversion of television transmissions from analog mode to digital mode. The commercial scheme empowers the ABA to determine the policies, methods and procedures it will use to achieve conversion of commercial television transmissions from analog mode to digital mode over time, while meeting the Government's policy objectives.
The draft variation to the scheme is available on the ABA's website.
Copies can be obtained from the ABA by calling Freecall 1800 810 241. Copies have been sent to all television broadcasters and known industry bodies.
Submissions are invited on the draft variation to the scheme, and may be made to the ABA as follows:
The ABA would prefer submissions to be sent by email or on an IBM compatible or Mac 3.5 inch floppy disk wherever possible. The closing date for submissions is 5pm, Friday 8 December 2000. The ABA will create a public file of the submissions received in electronic and hard copy format. After the closing date for submissions, the ABA intends to place them on its web site.
The ABA is varying the Commercial Television Conversion Scheme (the scheme). The amendments to the scheme are a necessary consequence of the Broadcasting Services (Digital Television and Datacasting) Act 2000, which amends Schedule 4 of the Broadcasting Services Act.
When varying the scheme, the ABA is required to consult with the public, national and commercial broadcasters, the Australian Communications Authority and owners and operators of broadcasting transmission towers.
The recent legislative amendments now mandate digital transmission in standard definition digital mode (SDTV). The same coverage and simulcasting requirements must now be met by SDTV digital transmission.
The amendments now define a channel as 7 MHz of bandwidth.
New planning decision at end of simulcast
At the conclusion of the simulcast period, the legislation now requires that the ABA make a planning decision about the efficient use of the spectrum. The broadcaster no longer chooses either the digital or analog channel for permanent broadcasting when the simulcast period ends: the ABA must plan a channel, based on the efficient use of the spectrum and consideration of datacasting needs, for continued broadcasting in digital mode. The reference to the efficient use of the spectrum as a planning consideration is also new.
Surrender of transmitter licences
Consequentially upon the ABA's new planning decision, at the conclusion of the simulcast period, analog transmission ceases and the relevant transmitter licences cease. New transmitter licences must be issued which reflect the ABA's planning decision making available a channel for continued digital broadcasting.
Administrative improvements where a series of implementation plans is submitted
The ABA has taken the opportunity to improve the administrative effectiveness of the scheme. The scheme now permits a broadcaster to submit one or a series of implementation plans, without the need for seeking approval to do so.
Licences issued under sections 38A and 38B of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992
The scheme also provides for the special circumstances that apply to licences issued under sections 38A or 38B of the Broadcasting Services Act (extra licences for markets with only one or two existing services respectively). These licensees may elect to multi-channel their services in digital mode, and the variations to the scheme provide for the appropriate planning decisions to be made in the digital channel plan to enable this. Further, the special circumstances applicable to such licences have been taken account of in the implementation plan approval process.