Schedule 4 to the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (BSA) requires the ACMA to formulate legislative schemes for the conversion of commercial and national television broadcasting services to digital mode.
The schemes are the Commercial Television Conversion Scheme 1999, which applies to commercial television broadcasting services, and the National Television Conversion Scheme 1999, which applies to national television broadcasting services.
The schemes are directed towards achieving various policy objectives listed in Schedule 4 to the BSA. These policy objectives include requirements for commercial and national broadcasters to:
- simulcast their services in both analog and digital mode during a simulcast period for a licence or coverage area;
- achieve the same level of coverage and potential reception quality of their digital transmissions as their analog transmissions; and
- cease analog transmissions of their services after the end of the simulcast period for a licence or coverage area.
Each scheme is divided into two parts. Part A applies to television broadcasting services in non-remote (i.e. regional and metropolitan) areas, and Part B applies to remote areas. Each part contains rules for:
- the creation of digital channel plans by the ACMA, which allot digital channels to television broadcasters for the transmission of television services in digital mode;
- the creation of implementation plans by broadcasters which outline the roll-out process for digital services by television broadcasters;
- test transmissions of digital services; and
- other matters necessary for the conversion of television broadcasting services from analog to digital mode.
The maintenance of the schemes is an ongoing responsibility for the ACMA to ensure that they continue to be relevant for their purposes. Consequently, over time, the schemes have been varied in response to changes in the broadcasting environment in general or amendments to Schedule 4 to the BSA.
In formulating or varying the schemes, the ACMA consults with the public, potential datacasters, holders of commercial television broadcasting licences, national broadcasters, and owners and operators of broadcasting transmission towers.
The Commercial Television Conversion Scheme commenced on gazettal on 9 June 1999. The scheme was last varied by the ACMA on 16 August 2011.
The National Television Conversion Scheme commenced on approval by the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts on 2 February 2000. The scheme was last varied by the ACMA on 17 August 2011.