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Free to air TV to have High Definition broadcast restrictions removed

AFL_Swans_HawthornThe Federal government has introduced legislation to remove restrictions that currently prevent free to air networks from broadcasting their main channels in High Definition.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced the move as the AFL, the Seven Network and News Corp announced heir record $2.5 bn broadcasting deal.

Introducing the bill into Parliament, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull said: “Australians love their football – which is why I introduced a bill to parliament today to give broadcasters the flexibility to broadcast the AFL and NRL grand finals in High Definition on their main channel should they choose to do so … There is no form of television programming where high-definition transmission is more important than live sports. It does make a very big difference.”

Seven West Media chairman Kerry Stokes said Tuesday Seven was investigating HD broadcasting of the AFL and hoped to have HD broadcasts ready by 2017 if not earlier. Sports fans have long complained that events shown on primary channels are not shown in high definition but in mandated lower quality standard definition.

Nine Network CEO David Gyngell welcomed the move.

“This move by the Government will ensure the Australian public continue to have the best quality television service live and free in their homes. Our team are working to ensure all the appropriate rights and technical issues are resolved so High Definition on our main channel can proceed, to provide the audience with the best possible experience of all our premium content, from sport and drama to live events,” Gyngell said.

Julie Flynn, CEO of industry body Free TV Australia said the move was a “win” for viewers “as it will give broadcasters the flexibility to screen more premium content in HD.

“In a digital environment, it doesn’t make sense to limit the primary service to standard definition. We welcome this as a first step to allowing free-to-air broadcasters to deliver more enhanced services to all Australians, for free. These positive changes may take some time to implement for each broadcaster, depending on the resolution of technical and rights issues. This is a move in the right direction”.

However Flynn said further deregulation of the industry was needed.

“The Australian television industry is facing unprecedented challenges, including some of the highest broadcaster licence fees in the world and the entry of largely unregulated global content providers,” Flynn said.

“We commend the government and urge them to implement further deregulation measures to allow free-to-air broadcasters to remain competitive so they can continue to deliver these highly valued services to all Australians for free,” she added.

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