Australia gets DTT skates on

Australia should have a timetable for its conversion to digital broadcasting ready by the end of the year. deputy secretary at the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Environment, said that there was still “ a great deal of work to do to explain” to the country at large that the analogue signal is due to be switched off by the end of 2013.

Townend, who used to be chief operating officer at Digital UK, said that there were a number of lessons to be learnt from the UK experience. That Australia is different to the UK in terms of density of population would present different challenges, he said, but some key issues in all analogue switch-off processes were not country specific. These include public education, the need for industry and government to work together and “knowing what everyone needs to do”.

A pilot switch-off scheme similar to that staged in the UK’s Whitehaven – where a 25,000-home area underwent a test switch-off – is likely to be undertaken. “We would be looking at some form of pilot in due course. That would inform what sort of timetable we have,” said Townend.

Also on the cards, and likely to be conducted shortly, is the tender to set up a “digital tracker”. There is A$4.8 million allocated by the government to launch a new survey which Townend said would help government and industry understand what is going on in terms of public readiness for switch-off.

“The tracker will determine what’s going well and not going so well so we can take action,” said Townend. “We expect it to become the definitive source of information on digital TV in Australia.”