Report on digital television transmission and reception




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Report on Digital Television


Transmission and Reception


February 2012

REPORT ON DIGITAL TELEVISION TRANSMISSION AND RECEPTION

22 AUGUST TO 30 NOVEMBER 2011


Section 1 Introduction

Section 2 Commercial and national free-to-air broadcasters in metropolitan and regional television licence areas

Section 3 Commercial and national free-to-air broadcasters in remote television licence areas

Section 4 Existing analog self-help retransmission sites and other likely terrestrial digital reception deficient areas.

Appendix 1 Digital television rollout areas considered in Digital Channel Plans under the National Television Conversion Scheme and the Commercial Television Conversion Scheme A1

Appendix 2 Areas served by transmission facilities that have one or more analog television self-help retransmission services A2

Appendix 3 Broadcaster callsigns A3

Appendix 4 Digital switchover timetable A4


  1. Introduction


Legislative basis for the report


Clause 5H of Schedule 4 to the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (BSA) provides that:


On the first sitting day of each House of the Parliament after each 1 January, 1 April, 1 July and 1 October from 1 April 2009 until 1 September 2014, the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (the Minister) must cause a report to be laid before each House of the Parliament containing the following information:


  1. action taken to identify and rectify transmission infrastructure that would otherwise prevent the transmission of free to air television broadcasting services in SDTV (standard definition television) digital mode in any area achieving the same level of coverage and potential reception quality as was achieved by the transmission of those services in analog mode; and




  1. the local market areas and regions where transmission issues have been identified and how many households will be affected.


This report updates the previous report tabled on 11 October 2011, and covers the period 22 August 2011 to 30 November 2011.


Previous reports can be found on the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy’s (the department) website at: www.dbcde.gov.au/television/digital_televison_switchover/reports_on_digital_television_transmission_and_reception.


Initiatives to address digital television terrestrial blackspots


Satellite service


On 5 January 2010, the Australian Government announced it would fund a new free-to-air satellite service to provide viewers in remote licence areas, and those in digital television terrestrial blackspots in metropolitan and regional licence areas, with access to the same range of digital television services (including digital multichannels such as ONE, ELEVEN, GO!, GEM, 7TWO, 7mate, ABC2, ABC3, ABC News 24 and SBS TWO) as are available in capital cities. This is known as the Viewer Access Satellite Television (VAST) service. Viewers will also have access to the same commercial broadcaster local news as is provided on terrestrial services in regional and remote licence areas.


On 29 June 2010, the Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Digital Television) Act 2010
(the Digital Television Act) received Royal Assent. The Digital Television Act established the legislative framework for the provision of the new satellite service for digital television blackspot areas.


Eastern VAST service


From 15 December 2010, the VAST service was made available to all residents in the Remote Central and Eastern Australia (RCEA) television licence areas and eligible
non-remote viewers. Southern Cross Media and Imparja Television provide the commercial digital television channels on this service - the Eastern VAST Service.


The Eastern VAST service will be made available to viewers in digital television blackspots in metropolitan and regional switchover areas in eastern Australia six months before their area is due to switchover. In accordance with these arrangements, the Eastern VAST service is already available to eligible viewers in non-remote licence areas that have already switched over to digital television. This includes regional Victoria, regional South Australia, Broken Hill and regional Queensland, as well as the Southern New South Wales licence area which switches over to digital television on 5 June 2012. A copy of the switch over timetable is at Appendix 4.


Western VAST service


From 30 July 2011, a VAST service has been available to certain viewers in remote and blackspot areas in Western Australia. This service replaced an interim satellite service that had been available since 30 March 2011 and did not feature the full range of commercial broadcaster digital multichannels. Commercial digital television channels sourced from Prime, WIN and West Digital Television (a joint venture between Prime and WIN) are provided on the VAST service to eligible viewers in Western Australia (the Western VAST service).  


The Western VAST service will be made available to viewers in digital television blackspots in the Perth licence area six months before their area is due to switchover on 30 June 2013 or, for those viewers in remote Western Australia licence areas that receive or are expected to receive adequate reception of services as a result of digital rollout of services
- once digital rollout has been completed in their local area or at the time of switchover (whichever is the earlier). Viewers in those parts of the remote Western Australia licence areas that are not expected to receive terrestrial digital television can access the VAST service now.


Reception equipment requirements


In order to access the Eastern or Western VAST service, viewers will require direct-to-home satellite reception equipment, including a satellite dish and set-top box. The costs of installation will vary depending on the location, the size of the satellite receiving dish required and characteristics of the viewer’s home.


To check their eligibility for the new satellite service and/or apply to access the service, an applicant should enter their installation address in the mySwitch application on the website www.digitalready.gov.au. Further details of how to access the VAST service can be found on the website www.digitalready.gov.au or www.mysattv.com.au.

Enhanced terrestrial coverage


The free-to-air broadcasters have agreed to upgrade a number of analog self-help retransmission facilities to operate in digital. The free-to-air commercial broadcasters have developed, and provided to the government, candidate lists of existing analog television self help retransmission sites in regional and metropolitan licence areas for conversion to digital. Broadcasters have advised the government that a total of 127 sites in metropolitan, regional or remote areas are expected to be digital-enabled, either through the conversion of some existing self-help retransmission facilities or the installation of new
broadcaster-operated facilities to cover gaps in digital coverage. Further information on these sites is provided in Section 4 below.


Viewers served by the remaining analog television self-help retransmission sites in metropolitan and regional licence areas, and all self-help sites in remote areas, will be eligible to access the VAST service.


The government is providing a satellite conversion subsidy to eligible households currently served by self-help retransmission sites which are not upgraded to digital by the broadcasters. The subsidy will assist affected households obtain the reception equipment necessary for the VAST service. Details of how to access the subsidy can be found on the website www.digitalready.gov.au.


The conversion of self-help retransmission sites on the broadcasters’ list will be managed and funded by the broadcasters themselves, but will still require the involvement of the local council or other operator of the site. It will be open to the operators of any self-help site on the candidate list to reach terms with the broadcasters on the offer of an upgrade, or to pursue an alternative arrangement such as upgrading the site to digital themselves. Broadcasters are not currently proposing to upgrade any self-help retransmission sites in remote licence areas.


The ACMA Television Coverage Evaluation Program


The ACMA has a multifaceted television coverage evaluation program that can contribute to indentifying transmission infrastructure issues that would otherwise prevent the transmission of television broadcasting from achieving the objectives relating to same level of coverage and potential reception quality in local markets and licence areas. As part of the planning process the ACMA requires broadcasters to identify any potential transmission issues that may need to be addressed in order to achieve the objectives relating to same level of coverage and potential reception quality. The ACMA has an active measurement program to support the evaluation program.


The ACMA’s measurement program has the capacity to identify potential coverage issues, including areas of potential reception difficulties. The ACMA also has regular and ongoing dialogue with senior broadcasting engineers through professional forums and directly with commercial and national broadcasters and their infrastructure providers.


The ACMA’s measurement program is tracking ahead of the switchover timetable. The program is currently operating in local television markets in Brisbane, Perth and Tasmania (expected to switchover in mid 2013). Since 22 August 2011, the ACMA has completed field surveys and engineering analysis of the Northern New South Wales licence area with final reports to be completed shortly. Measurement results are analysed and reported to the department and to broadcasters, and infrastructure providers as required. Further information is available at: www.acma.gov.au/WEB/STANDARD/pc=PC_312427.


Digital television transmission regulatory framework


Schedule 4 to the BSA requires the ACMA to formulate Commercial Television Conversion Schemes 1999 (CTCS) and National Television Conversion Scheme 1999 (NTCS) for the conversion, over time, of the transmission of commercial television broadcasting services and national television broadcasting services from analog mode to digital mode.


The BSA requires the conversion schemes to be directed toward a number of policy objectives relating to digital transmissions achieving the same level of coverage and potential reception quality as is achieved by corresponding analog services. 1 The CTCS and NTCS include a range of specific planning and licensing provisions that flow from the objectives relating to the same level of coverage and potential reception quality.


Under the conversion schemes, the ACMA makes Digital Channel Plans (DCPs) that, amongst other matters, assign channels to commercial and national broadcasters for the provision of their digital television services to particular areas.


The conversion schemes require commercial and national broadcasters to submit for approval one or more implementation plans (IP) relating to digital transmission. The IP is a broadcaster’s commitment, approved by the ACMA (for commercial licensees) or the Minister (for national broadcasters), to:

  • provide transmission of a television broadcasting service in digital mode from specified sites;

  • cover specified areas by specified dates; and

  • meet the objectives relating to same level of coverage and potential reception quality.


Section 2 and Section 3 of this report deal with the progress commercial and national broadcasters have made in non-remote (metropolitan and regional) and remote licence areas towards meeting these objectives respectively.


In addition to the transmission facilities operated by commercial and national broadcasters, there are more than 600 analog television self-help retransmission sites operated by local government authorities, Indigenous or community groups, or other parties. These are designed to obtain, or to improve, analog television terrestrial reception in areas unable to obtain adequate reception from existing broadcaster-operated transmission facilities. Such services are not covered by the conversion schemes, and so the obligations and policy objectives of these schemes do not apply to their operators.


It is likely that many areas with deficient analog television terrestrial reception will also have deficient digital television reception unless (as per ‘Enhanced terrestrial coverage’ above):

  • the broadcasters’ wider digital footprint reaches the area;

  • the broadcasters or current operator convert an existing analog television self-help retransmission site to digital; or

  • a local council or group establishes a new digital television self-help retransmission site.


The VAST service, which is funded by the government, provides digital television services to eligible households where no terrestrial coverage is available. Satellite reception equipment needs to be installed to receive this service.


Section 4 of this report provides information on the candidate list Free TV Australia has developed of existing self-help retransmission sites in non-remote licence areas that the commercial broadcasters intend to convert to digital. It also provides information on proposed gap-filler sites that will enhance digital television coverage and hybrid transmission sites from which a mix of broadcaster-provided and self-help retransmission services are transmitted.


  1. Commercial and national free-to-air broadcasters in metropolitan and regional television licence areas


This section reports on the progress made by commercial television broadcasting licensees and national broadcasters in metropolitan and regional television licence areas with the objective of achieving the same level of coverage and potential reception quality for their service in digital mode as is achieved by the transmission of that service in analog mode.


Progress in achieving “same level of coverage and potential reception quality’”


The ACMA currently expects approximately 1215 Implementation Plans (IPs) to be submitted for services in metropolitan and regional licence areas.2


To 30 November 2011, there have been 1071 IPs approved in metropolitan and regional licence areas; 472 for national broadcasting services and 599 for commercial broadcasting services. As of the same date there were 60 IPs undergoing the approval process, culminating in 1117 IPs approved or in process. Forty three test licences have been issued by the ACMA so that services could commence in advance of IP approval and a further 27 test licences have been issued so that services could commence in advance of the submission of IPs.


Between 22 August and 30 November 2011, there were no new IPs approved for commercial or national broadcasting services in metropolitan and regional licence areas. A further eight IPs for national broadcasting services were varied.


Digital services covered by the conversion schemes have commenced at all transmitter sites within metropolitan licence areas.


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