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Tech Talk Radio Show 20 of 2009
Transmission date: May 18, 2009

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Ep 20: Adam Turner  heads to CeBit to talk VOIP, Google trips of the power lead again
Sony and Pioneer are doing it tough, Dr Ron talks us through WolframAlpha and 3 new apps from Google.

May 18 , 2009

Cast your mind way back to the year 2000. We had the millennium bug, an Air France Concorde crashes near Paris, the US Supreme Court decides in favor of George W, Bush in split decision over 2000 Presidential election and Sony launched the PlayStation 2. Something that may have slipped your mind here in Australia is that the year 2000 was the start of terrestrial digital television in this country. This begs the question: How has digital TV evolved in this county over the past 9 and a half years?

Remember when the music went digital? Ten years after the launch of the Compact Disc, you’d need to be a detective to find an old vinal album in a shop anywhere, but visit your local white goods store here in Australia and you can still by an old analogue tv should you want.
The Australian Government didn’t help the take up very much as they chose to offer protection to the then infant Foxtel, an upstart cable TV provider. Multi Channeling was strictly taboo for at least the first 5 years. When digital TV was launched, the government told everyone that the turn off of the analogue TV broadcasts would start in 2008. That would give everyone plenty of time to migrate to digital.

The ABC and SBS were the first broadcasters to start running different program on their alternate digital channels, but there were strict regulations as to what could be shown. It wasn’t until January this year that the multi channeling law was relaxed, some 9 years after the inception of DVBH in this country.

A group consisting of the 5 free to air broadcasters got together and conceived Freeview, a somewhat misleading campaign which was launched in 2008 to promote 15 different TV channels free of charge to your TV via the airwaves. We’re almost six months in to 2009 and what have we got to show for it? Not much. Channel10 now has one HD channels and 2 SD channels. Recently they launched One HD, a sporting channel where you can watch anything from basket ball to tiddlywinks. You can watch this on two out of three of these channels to the cost of a HD feed of their regular program.

The ABC are leading the pack, as per usual, with 1 HD channel and 3 SD channels. ABC1 and ABCHD run the same content, ABC 2 runs catch up TV and the odd first run, and ABC has just received funding for a 24 hour kids channel.

SBS also utilize the channels well with different programming across the board, but as for 7 and 9, they’re not in any hurry to utilize their alternate channels.

freeview

To add salt to the digital wound, there seems to be a lot of confusion around technical standards for the delivery of digital TV in Australia only. Free TV Australia are shying away from the globally excepted MPG streams, and pushing for a new system called MHEG, something that only a couple of other countries are using. This in turn means manufacturers of domestic receivers are reluctant to make equipment for our market resulting in a shortage of devices such as PVR’s.

So here we are, nearly 10 years away from the launch of digital TV in Australia, and six months away from the beginning of the shutdown of analogue tv and what have we got to show for it? No one government or organization is to blame, responsibility needs to be shared across many organizations, but one thing’s for sure, other countries destined to go down the path of migration from analogue to digital television, can look to Australia’s effort as an example of how not to do it.

Also on the show this week:

  • Adam Turner  heads to CeBit to talk VOIP
  • Google trips of the power lead again
  • Sony and Pioneer are doing it tough
  • Dr Ron talks us through WolframAlpha
  • Conroy on the NBN backfoot over the oppositions threat to block the bill and
  • 3 new apps from Google