Free TV Australia CEO Julie Flynn has called for acknowledgement of the importance of free to air television as the primary mass communications vehicle in Australia and a subsequent preservation of TV’s available spectrum despite the increased level of digital convergence.
Speaking at the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA)’s RadComms 2013 conference in Sydney, Flynn said: “Commercial broadcasters understand the increasing demand for spectrum in a converged media world, but these demands have to be balanced against the fact that most Australians still receive the majority of their favourite programs – drama, sport, news and current affairs, light entertainment, reality, lifestyle and children’s – free-to-view, on television.
“Around 70 per cent of Australians depend exclusively on free-to-air for their television services.
“The industry cannot sustain ongoing delivery of these services if faced with the erosion of the spectrum that is vital to deliver them.”
Free TV has also called for a clear migration pathway for broadcasters to transition to more spectrum-efficient standards such as DVB-T2, MPEG-4 and HEVC.
Ms Flynn noted Australians watch just over three hours a day of television compared with thirteen minutes a day of any video content on laptop/desktop computers, three minutes a day on mobiles and two minutes per day on tablets.
“Television broadcasters have released more than 40 per cent of their spectrum as part of the digital dividend, which recently raised over $2 billion at auction,” said Flynn.
“Yet despite claims of pent-up spectrum demand in the lead-up to the auction not all the spectrum was actually sold.
“Broadcasters are currently undertaking the massive task of restacking their services across the country to free-up the digital dividend spectrum.
“We need certainty that this process will not have to be repeated in the medium term and that any future changes to spectrum access will not disadvantage viewers living in regional and remote Australia.
“The debate over spectrum access also needs to recognise that broadcasting remains the best way of delivering content to large numbers of viewers.
“When three million-plus Australians want to watch their favourite footy team’s final or Aussie drama, broadcast television is by far and away the most efficient and cost effective means for them to do so.
“We support the ACMA’s research into actual spectrum demand to 2020 and beyond, and encourage the regulator to also look at ways that the broadcast platform can adopt more efficient technologies to ensure that Australians are able to continue their love affair with both their television sets and their mobile devices.”