Free HDTV Everywhere by 2013? UPDATED

Since this morning’s posting, the NZ Press Association has filed this report about the press conference. And Freeview general manager Sam Irvine has welcomed the extension of HD coverage: “Today’s announcement also means a further year of funding for Freeview, more efficient use of spectrum and the availability of new technologies, all of which will enable us to continue providing the Kiwi viewing public with a compelling free-to-air offer.”

Expect the roll-out of MyFreeview|HD to accelerate with this afternoon’s announcement that 2013 will be when the Government switches off analogue TV.

It’s understood Hawke’s Bay and the West Coast will be the first digital switchover (DSO) test areas, with analogue transmission to end there in 2012; the South Island, lower North Island and upper North Island will follow in that order, with the DSO to be complete by December 2013.

The Government will announce this strategy in a 1pm press conference but don’t expect details of how it might subsidise the take-up of digital TV by the 30% of households that are still analogue.

One way to persuade these households would be to aggressively advance the distribution of Freeview’s HD digital terrestrial television (DTT) service, which is still limited to the  nine major centres.

While that’s 75% of the population, it still means a big chunk of the country can only enjoy HDTV reception of free-to-air channels by paying for it with a Sky TV subscription.

As the Ministry for Culture and Heritage acknowledged earlier this year, “Extending DTT coverage could potentially act as an incentive for digital television take-up, and, thus the earlier achievement of [DSO] as set-up costs for consumers are cheaper.

“DTT also allows for high-definition content and regionalised content.”

To extend DTT to 87% of the population would cost the Government up to $6.3 million.

The 2013 DSO date comes as a surprise given it was thought that rather than risk voter alienation by forcing a digital TV upgrade, the Government would wait until after the 2014 general election.

But implementing it sooner rather than later would allow the Government to auction off the analogue spectrum for high-speed wireless communications and other services while bringing NZ into line with other countries, such as the UK and Australia, which will complete their DSOs in 2012 and 2013 respectively.

It also will save TVNZ and TV3 million of dollars, as they no longer will have to broadcast both analogue and digital signals.

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One Response to “Free HDTV Everywhere by 2013? UPDATED”

  1. Anyone smell a new treaty claim over the freed up airwaves coming along in the next year or two??

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