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Thursday, 13 May 2010
Page: 3590

Mr LINDSAY (5:40 PM) —My contribution to the Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Digital Television) Bill 2010 will be short. My concern has been the way the government has been handling the digital television space and how wrong some of the decisions have been. If you have a service now and the government is wanting to change from an analog to a digital service, surely the policy should be that there be no cost to the viewer. Why should the viewer who has a service have to bear the cost of changing to a different type of delivery when people in metropolitan cities and in the range of normal terrestrial television towers do not have to pay a single cent? Surely that should be the public policy position.

It is bizarre that the government is proposing a system where people will be left out from a service that they currently have or they will have to pay to get back their service to replace the one that they currently have. That is surely wrong. It is surely a failure of public policy on behalf of the government. These services that are affected are generally in regional or remote Australia. So surely it sends the message that we do not count, that we are second-class citizens and that the government is happy to look after people in the metro areas or the regional areas where there is high-power local television transmitters but that those who are outside that area in the more remote areas or rural areas the government does not care about. That is what is being said.

I give the House a particular instance of another failure of public policy in the digital area, if I may, and that is in relation to high-definition television. High-definition television came to Australia with a huge fanfare. Sets became available and the networks lauded the quality of the pictures that could be produced. There is no doubt with the 1080i that you can produce magnificent pictures. But what has happened since? There is less and less HD content available. Yes, there is some on sport. Even the ABC has dropped its HD channel. Australia is moving against the rest of the world in the delivery of high-definition television.

Very recently I met with the BBC’s head of HDTV at the BBC Television Centre at White City in London. She confirmed to me that HD is moving very fast, even through the recession in England. She confirmed to me that, in general, people watch more television when they have got an HD service; but, more than that, she confirmed to me that standard definition production is becoming obsolete. There is no further call for it. But Australia is going in the other direction: we are producing all these standard definition channels, which is basically code for ‘more crap on television’. Yes, Anthony, you can spell that! I think we all understand that that is the situation.

I call on the minister, Senator Conroy, to have a look at this. Why is he allowing Australian television broadcasters to move away from broadcasting the best quality television that the world can deliver when the rest of the world is demanding that and is receiving it? I ask the minister to look at that as well as this public policy of making people in regional and remote Australia pay for a service that they already have. In the interests of my good friend the member for Grayndler, I will conclude. I thank the House for its time tonight.