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Alston addresses digital broadcasting conference

The enormous benefits of digital broadcasting and datacasting will only be realised if the Australian industry commits itself to a substantial consumer education campaign, the Minister for Communications, Senator Richard Alston, said today.

Senator Alston told a digital conference in Sydney that the Government expects to make announcements within several months on a range of highly complex regulatory and policy issues surrounding the introduction of digital broadcasting and datacasting from 1 January 2001.

'It would be easy for Government and industry to concentrate on these technical and regulatory issues. But we must not lose sight of the interests of consumers,' Senator Alston said.

'Many consumers are no doubt scratching their heads, wondering - when will digital TV arrive? How much will it cost? How many plugs and outlets will I need in my living room?

'Digital TV must appeal to consumers if it is to succeed. The challenge for Government is to ensure that the policy framework does not constrain consumer opportunities.

'But the industry faces a greater challenge. It must give ordinary Australians a compelling reason to go out and spend several thousand dollars on a new television set or several hundred dollars on a new set top box.

'The industry has to do nothing less than fundamentally change consumer behaviour. Consumer education will be crucial in encouraging the take-up of new digital products. Clear and accurate information about products and services will be necessary, especially considering the complexities of digital broadcasting.

'Receivers that are convenient to use and reasonably priced, and the provision of services that appeal to consumers will be essential. The Government acknowledges the industry's work in this area, through the Digital Broadcasting Industry Coordinating Group.

'If the industry gets this right, it will drive a breakthrough in the take up of enhanced services to the home. Rather than a small minority of the population being able to access advanced information services from their home, it will become commonplace. It will become the norm for people to have a device in their home which not only gives them better, clearer television than today, but also gives them access to information services and potentially enables them to transact.

'If that happens, then we will see a fundamental change in the way that Australians entertain themselves, inform themselves, and go about the necessary business in their daily lives.'

19 August 1999

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