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Govt signals digital future for public television

Government signals digital future for public television

The Government is signalling a digital future for public television and has established a work programme to resolve key issues by mid 2003, Broadcasting Minister Steve Maharey and Communications Minister Paul Swain announced today.

Currently Sky television is the only digital broadcaster in New Zealand, reaching over 30% of households. However New Zealand is expected to follow other countries and migrate from the current analogue television to digital television in the future. Government policy on digital television is being developed to ensure that public and private broadcasters are best able to use the technology. Steve Maharey and Paul Swain today released a Cabinet paper agreed to by the Cabinet in December 2002 which sets out policy decisions made to date and a series of issues on which policy is now being developed.

Steve Maharey said the government has at least three distinct roles in respect to digital television which it is taking into account as it seeks to determine the way forward.

"The government has several interests in relation to digital television. These include allocation of radio spectrum and overseeing broadcasting markets, as well as the government's role in relation to Television New Zealand, the Mâori Television Service and the funding of local content through NZ on Air and Te Mangai Paho.

"Digital satellite television is already here. A key question for government is what steps it should take, if any, to encourage further uptake of digital television. The starting point is that broadcasters and viewers should be free to choose the platform by which digital television is provided, based on factors such as cost, content and reliability.

“Digital television is seen by many in the broadcasting industry as the inevitable replacement of analogue, just as a digital mobile phones are replacing analogue mobile phones. However we also acknowledge that it is premature to set an analogue switch-off date, because the transition to digital will clearly take some time as experience in other countries has shown,” Steve Maharey said.

Officials have been asked to report to Cabinet by mid-2003 on: options for allocating spectrum for digital terrestrial and satellite television; issues relating to the digital television market, Standards NZ and industry progress in adopting digital television technical standards and whether government intervention is required; continued funding of analogue terrestrial television transmission in outlying areas; and implications of digital television for TVNZ and the Maori Television Service, and programming funded through NZ On Air and Te Mangai Paho.

Paul Swain said the advice Cabinet considered in December draws on a consultation process carried out by the Ministry of Economic Development with industry and the wider public during 2002.

The paper is available at http://www.med.govt.nz/pbt/broadcas/digitaltv/.

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