Malcolm Turnbull’s move to allow networks to broadcast their primary channel in High Definition will put an end to one of viewers’ biggest gripes.
Yesterday the Coalition approved an amendment to allow networks the option of switching their primary channel to HD, with Nine and TEN already welcoming the news. The legislation is expected to be put to Parliament today, with anticipated support from Labor and the Greens.
Early reports indicate it is expected to pass in time for the AFL and NRL Grand Finals, although it remains unclear if all the technical requirements will be in place for those broadcasts to be in HD.
TEN Network Chief Executive Officer, Paul Anderson said, “TEN Network welcomes the Government’s proposal to remove the restriction on broadcasting our main channel in high definition. The legislation is catching up with technology. This is great news for viewers, as it will allow us to enhance our service by presenting premium content on the main TEN channel in HD – for free. It will take time to move the main channel to HD, but we are already working on the technical and rights issues.”
Nine CEO David Gyngell said, “This move by the Government will ensure the Australian public continue to have the best quality television service live and free in their homes. Our team are working to ensure all the appropriate rights and technical issues are resolved so High Definition on our main channel can proceed, to provide the audience with the best possible experience of all our premium content, from sport and drama to live events.”
A Seven spokesperson said, “It is pleasing to see our legislation being brought in to line with technology. We certainly hope to bring viewers more HD content in future. But there is still more to be done to address regulatory constraints on commercial broadcasters. In particular we still pay the highest licence fees in the world and are facing competition from international players who aren’t subject to the same rules and in some cases don’t even pay tax. We are looking forward to continuing to work with the Government to address these imbalances.”
Free TV CEO Julie Flynn said, “This is a win for viewers as it will give broadcasters the flexibility to screen more premium content in HD.
“In a digital environment, it doesn’t make sense to limit the primary service to Standard Definition. We welcome this as a first step to allowing free-to-air broadcasters to deliver more enhanced services to all Australians, for free.
“These positive changes may take some time to implement for each broadcaster, depending on the resolution of technical and rights issues.
“This is a move in the right direction. However, we still have a long way to go. The Australian
television industry is facing unprecedented challenges, including some of the highest broadcaster licence fees in the world and the entry of largely unregulated global content providers.
“We commend the government and urge them to implement further deregulation measures to allow free-to-air broadcasters to remain competitive so they can continue to deliver these highly valued services to all Australians for free.”
For television viewers the change cannot come soon enough. Watching our favourite dramas, documentaries and sport in standard definition is an outdated concept, and should have been remedied quickly after the analogue switch-off at the end of 2013 (David Gyngell even flagged this after the last NRL rights deal!).
Foxtel has always been able to push its array of HD broadcasts as a key selling point. Free to Air is long overdue in addressing that imbalance.
TV Tonight readers who have been completing the Audience Inventory survey have ranked the problem as one of the Most Important issues to them as viewers. 798 surveys have been received thus far, and the lack of HD has attracted plenty of comment.
Here are some select quotes from readers:
- For all Primary Channels to switch to HD.Australia has been waiting far too long.
- Number one priority right now should be getting the primary channels HD. Glad you include that as one of your listed issues.
- Can’t believe we still haven’t got HD for the main channels.
- HD as primary FTA channel is SO important, as is HD sports. Most critical issue IMO.
- Not enough HD and 5.1 surround sound. Shows too slow to appear. FTA Terrible. Too much reality TV.
- Nine need to set up HD streaming for live NRL matches and make Foxtel redundant.
- FTA wants more access to shows that Foxtel/Pay TV has, but when they get the access they muck it up. EG AFL – Seven refuse to screen in HD, but Foxtel has had it in HD for years.
- Lack of original programming is disappointing. Lack of HD and live sport is disrespectful. Shopping channels should be banned.
- Fast tracking all shows, in HD, is the only way to combat piracy.
- TV networks are being left behind with the technology advancing so quickly around them. HD mandatory within 18 months please, the difference is amazing between FTA sport and FoxHD sports (eg AFL).
- Programs are made in HD so broadcast them in HD!
- Every channel should be in HD.
- I love TV. I’d really like to see main channels in HD. And more sport in HD. I can’t get HD Foxtel in my apartment building which is very frustrating.
- The lack of FTA HD content is appalling. Especially sport that is exclusive to FTA.
- Biggest priority – HD primary channels. It is ridiculous we cannot watch events like State of Origin in HD.
- Picture quality is appalling compared to when digital TV launched -we need FULL HD and better bitrate!
While it has been copping a whacking in the polls, it sounds like the government will win some favour with this one.
You can still have your say on the issues in TV that matter to you here.