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TVNZ welcomes Government commitment to Digital

15 June, 2006

TVNZ welcomes Government commitment to Digital

TVNZ strongly welcomes the Government’s positive response to broadcaster proposals to introduce free-to-air digital broadcasting, and believes the decision represents a significant milestone in the evolution of New Zealand broadcasting.

TVNZ Chief Executive Officer, Rick Ellis, said the announcement signalled a strong commitment by the Government to building new national infrastructure, and to develop TVNZ and public broadcasting in the digital era.

The Government announcement, which includes an in principle agreement to provide funding to assist with the establishment of digital infrastructure, follows proposals from the FreeView Group. The Group is a consortium of TVNZ, CanWest, Radio New Zealand, Maori Television Service and the New Zealand Racing Board (TAB).

The FreeView Group will develop a shared digital platform to bring digital free-to-air television to New Zealand and to promote the benefits to viewers of making the change to receiving free-to-air broadcasts by digital rather than the existing ageing analogue system.

“This is the culmination of hard work over several years by many inside TVNZ and other broadcasters, and the level of co-operation amongst free-to-air broadcasters has been unprecedented,” said Mr Ellis. “Broadcast Communications Limited (BCL) will deliver state of the art transmission capability, and the concept has been finalised with a great deal of constructive dialogue with the Ministry of Economic Development and the Ministry for Culture and Heritage.”

TVNZ’s participation in FreeView will deliver digital-quality pictures and audio to the standard viewers enjoy from DVDs. It will carry TV ONE and TV2, and enable TVNZ to provide new channels and services not currently available.

Households will not have to pay a subscription to receive the programmes from the free-to-air broadcasters, which will be initially delivered Direct to Home (DTH) via satellite, and then through a national ground transmission network called Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT). BCL will provide both these transmission systems to broadcasters.

Although there will be no subscription, viewers will need to purchase a small plug-in set-top box to enable their television set to receive digital signals.

TVNZ’s CEO emphasised that although broadcasters would use FreeView to promote digital broadcasting, to provide viewer advice and support, and to co-ordinate technical and industry matters, the broadcasters would compete for viewers just as they do now.

“As New Zealand’s public television broadcaster TVNZ cannot ignore what other broadcasters and new technologies offer. In fact, we need to lead the way in transitioning off the ageing analogue system and onto a digital system,” said Mr Ellis.

Mr Ellis explained that FreeView would give TVNZ the opportunity to start new branded services that meet the expectations New Zealanders rightly have of their public television broadcaster. He said TVNZ was already working on new programming and channel options.

“This Government announcement is the crucial first step,” said Mr Ellis. “It ensures New Zealand will have a modern free-to-air digital broadcasting platform.“


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