O’Keefe develops new digital television lobbying group

By James Wells

SYDNEY: A new lobbying group consisting only of consumer electronics suppliers is in the process of being established by the former head of Digital Broadcasting Australia (DBA), Tim O’Keefe.

The new group will be a restructured division of the Australian Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers Association (AEEMA), currently called the Digital Broadcast Forum (DBF), which may change its name if the group is expanded.

“We are in the process of establishing a group to address the main issues facing consumer electronics suppliers in the lead up to the switch off of analogue television in 2010 and 2012,” O’Keefe told Current.com.au.

“We are gathering support amongst the major suppliers and once we have that support, we will go to the other players in the digital television industry. This is not going to be a select group – we are going to try and make it as broad as possible.”

The major hurdles facing the expansion of the DBF is that a number of major digital television suppliers including LG, Sony and Samsung are not current members of AEEMA.

The decision to establish the group followed visits to Canberra by O’Keefe and other members of the DBA from companies including LG, Panasonic, Legend, Matchmaster and Force to discuss issues with the Department of Communications regarding testing and conformance.

“Out of our meetings in Canberra, the DBA suppliers realised they needed a voice in Canberra.”

O’Keefe recently left the DBA, where he was managing consultant, and has since been replaced by its first CEO, Chris Williamson.

“This new group will be very different to the DBA,” O’Keefe said.

“It will have direct contact with Canberra and the political process to ensure that the voice of the CE suppliers is heard and heard strongly by the decision makers who decide what the digital action plan will be.

The DBF will continue to be managed by AEEMA and its staff will be overlooking the secretariat. The DBF is chaired by Panasonic’s Ross Henderson, who is also one of the board members of the DBA.

“Many of the Digital Action Plan initiatives suggested by the Communications Minister, Senator Helen Coonan, in her recent media statement would require a coordinated effort by digital television suppliers acting on a number of fronts including testing and conformance, labelling and marketing,” Henderson said this morning.

Henderson said the new group would also be seeking a role in the development of digital radio in Australia and would provide a link for the digital suppliers to AEEMA’s Connected Home Forum and form an important pillar of AEEMA’s ICT Australia division.

The DBA cannot lobby on behalf of consumer electronics suppliers specifically as it is a group that has been established to promote digital television and includes other members with separate interests such as commercial broadcasters and installers.

“This is a not a breakaway group – it is under the AEEMA umbrella,” O’Keefe said.

Before the DBF is expanded to become a digital television lobbying group for consumer electronics companies, the remaining suppliers who are not members of AEEMA must join the organisation.

“What we do need is the support of the majors. That is the position we are at the moment. We are going outside AEEMA’s current membership structure at the moment and we are generally getting a fairly positive response,” he said.

AEEMA chief executive, Angus Robinson, said his industry association is responding to demands from the suppliers of digital television and radio products for a more coordinated approach in addressing the planning and implementation issues.

“AEEMA is looking forward to broad industry support for the immediate establishment of AEEMA’s Digital Suppliers Industry Forum with membership ranging from the major global manufacturers to small Australian based suppliers of digital broadcasting products and services,” Robinson said in a statement issued this morning.

With his prior experience with the DBA, O’Keefe hopes that he will be involved in the new lobbying group for CE suppliers.

“It is up to AEEMA, but the role of coordinating the policy position for this group will be left to me I hope,” he said.

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