Electronic program guides (EPGs) provide value to viewers as a convenient source of program schedule information and by enabling reception equipment features such as parental lock. Read on to learn more.
To improve the completeness and accuracy of EPG services provided by free-to-air(FTA) broadcasters, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (the ACMA) published a set of EPG principles in June 2009.
The EPG principles, developed in consultation with industry, provide broadcasters with a clear performance benchmark for the supply of EPG services that meet viewers’ needs.
The ACMA reviews broadcaster performance against the principles when deciding whether to exercise its regulatory powers.
The EPG principles
1. Each FTA broadcaster should provide EPG data that is freely available
Each FTA broadcaster should transmit EPG data free-of-charge to the public as part of the FTA transmission.
EPG information should be available, unencrypted, in the Event Information Table (EIT) section of the Service Information (SI) data provided as part of the DVB-T broadcast.
EPG data must not be solely available as a result of a broadband subscription, the purchase of 'middleware' or as a result of a contractual agreement between the broadcaster and the end user.
2. Broadcast EPG data should provide critical information
Critical information supports the basic EPG-driven operations of standard consumer equipment. Critical information is currently described in the Operational Procedures FTVA OP 44 Implementation Guide for DVB EITpresent/following (EIT p/f) and FTVA OP58 Implementation Guide for DVB EIT Schedule Information (EITschedule actual) developed by FreeTV Australia.
Critical information should be updated in accordance with requirements specified in the operating procedures and include:
accurate information about the present and following programs being aired (including starting times)
a minimum of 7 days of schedule information
accurate and useful parental guidance rating information in accordance with the Australian standards.
ACMA monitoring of broadcaster performance against EPG principles
After the EPG principles were published, the ACMA monitored broadcaster performance against the principles and reported its findings every quarter.
Up to August 2010, monitoring identified that broadcasters were consistently meeting all elements of the EPG principles except the accuracy of information in the present/following section of the EPG.
In response to the underperformance of some broadcasters and the importance of present/following accuracy to the effective operation of parental lock, the ACMA decided from August 2010 it would produce a separate monthly report to provide a focussed assessment of performance in relation to this issue.
From August 2010, the ACMA reported:
the accuracy of information transmitted by broadcasters in the present/following section of their EPGs on a monthly basis
performance against all other elements of the EPG principles on a quarterly basis.
Performance reports are available on this page. Information about how the ACMA monitored performance against each element of the EPG principles is available in the reports.
By the end of March 2011 the ACMA had established through its monitoring and reporting process that all broadcasters had demonstrated the capability to provide stable and effective EPG that met all elements of the EPG principles.
The ACMA has ceased its formal monitoring and reporting program but will still respond to complaints regarding EPG inaccuracies. If you wish to report EPG inaccuracies email EPG Principles.
Program start time accuracy in the EPG
Two separate sections of the EPG contain program start times:
the ‘seven-day schedule’ – which contains information about each program scheduled to air over the next seven days
the ‘present/following’ (or ‘now/next’) – which contains information about the program presently on air, and the program scheduled to follow.
These two sections are usually accessed on-screen using a separate button on your EPG remote control.
The EPG principles address the accuracy of program start times in the present/following section of the EPG only (see principle #2, above) – they do not address the accuracy of program start times in the seven-day schedule.
The ‘present/following’ section of the EPG and the operation of parental lock
The ‘present/following’ (or ‘now/next’) section of the EPG transmitted by the broadcasters contains key information about the program presently on air and the program to follow, including the name, start time and classification of each program and a brief description of its contents. Whether some or all of this information is diplayed on your receiver is a function of the receiver.
In addition to providing viewers with convenient access to accurate start times for upcoming programs, the accuracy of present/following information has important implications for the effective operation of the parental lock feature in digital television reception equipment.
Digital television reception equipment uses information in the ‘present program’ field to identify the classification of the program on air at any point in time, and whether the program should be blocked.
For parental lock to function effectively:
The present/following section of the EPG must contain accurate and useful parental guidance rating information that meets Australian standards.
The ‘following program’ field in the EPG must immediately transition to the ‘present program’ field as program content changes on air.
If present/following transitions do not coincide with times programs go to air, program blocking may be triggered either after a program commences, or before the preceding program ends. This could allow showing part of a program that was intended to be blocked by the viewer.
The parental lock page has further information about the parental lock feature and the technical standard determined by the ACMA to make parental lock a required feature of most new digital television receivers sold in Australia from 4 February 2011.
Do broadcasters have to comply with the EPG principles?
No – there is no formal requirement for broadcasters to comply with the EPG principles.
The principles provide broadcasters with an opportunity to meet agreed EPG service standards without the introduction of regulations.
The ACMA will consider broadcaster performance against the principles when deciding to exercise its regulatory powers in relation to EPGs.