RealTime IT News

Datacasting Legislation Passed

[Sydney, AUSTRALIA] The federal Senate has passed the digital television and datacasting bill into legislation.

The bill has drawn criticism from industry groups and the federal Opposition Australian Labor Party (ALP) for the past few weeks, but the legislation was passed with support from the ALP and the Democrats who hold the upper house balance of power.

The Government has conceded some small ground to its critics by amending the bill to provide the Australia Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and the SBS networks with additional television channels to broaden the variety of content available to consumers.

This was a point on which the Internet Industry Association, the ALP and particularly the Democrats had been vocal. However other criticisms, such as the argument that the bill would impede datacasting's growth with non free-to-air broadcasters suffering strict content genre and duration restrictions, went largely unrecognized in the legislation.

"The Government is confident that these amendments will strengthen the business case for aspirant datacasters," the Minister for Communication, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Richard Alston, maintained in a statement. "The Government expects a healthy level of interest in the new datacasting licences."

This claim comes despite the fact that national telco Telstra and publisher Fairfax pulled out of datacasting trials scheduled to start in July and August. Both companies cited the lack of commercial viability of datacasting with such hefty content limitations as their reasons for withdrawing for the project.

When the digital television legislation comes into effect, consumers will have a choice of how to participate in the digital communications future. Users can choose between buying a High Definition TV (HDTV) television set with access to datacasting services or a Standard Definition (SDTV) television set that will also provide datacasting access and better reception and quality than current analog systems. Consumers can also buy a set-top box that gives access to new services with existing picture quality through their analog television set.

Normal television broadcasts will continue to be available for consumers who do not have digital TV access.