By Adam Coleman and James Wells

SYDNEY: Digital television suppliers, Samsung and Sony have responded to the Federal Government’s proposed digital television discussion paper, suggesting a firm date for the analogue broadcast switch-off is now needed.

The minister for communications, Senator Helan Coonan, conceded on Tuesday that the original plan to switch off analogue television in 2008 is unrealistic, but failed to set a new target, instead speculating that some time between 2010 and 2012 would be achievable.

“We know the broadcasters are ready, we know the manufacturers are ready for it, we need a goal post to aim for, because not having a date is frustrating for both sides of the fence,” said Samsung AV product manager, John Fragiadakis.

Sony Australia deputy managing director, Carl Rose, also supports a quick decision on the shutdown of the analogue network.

“We are conscious of the fact that uncertainty around the analogue switch-off is a major inhibitor to the consumer take-up of digital television,” Rose said.

“We believe that 2010 is achievable with a phased rollout, which reflects the government’s recommendation for the switch-off to reach regional areas by 2012. These timelines are broadly consistent with other comparable markets in the world,” he said.

Under the Government’s proposals, the current high definition content quota of 1040 hours per year would be retained until the end of the simulcast period, speculated to be around 2010. According to Fragiadakis, this will not necessarily be a significant blow to the sale of high definition ready televisions or set top boxes.

“I have been speaking with a lot of the broadcasters and the networks, they are well over the quota, they are pumping out HD as much as possible. However, I’m sure from their point of view they are all waiting to go to full digital,” he said.

Senator Coonan’s recommendations also included the removal of current restrictions on full multichannelling but only after the analogue switch-off.

As an interim measure, from the 1 January 2007, the Government could allow free to air TV broadcasters to run one multichannel in high definition in advance of the switch-off, which could provide further incentive for consumers to purchase a digital set top box or integrated panel.

According to Rose, where Sony sees the greatest impact on retailers is in education and the dissemination of information to consumers as part of the digital action plan.

“There will need to be a marked change at the shopfront end where retailers and manufacturers will need to communicate that the analogue switch-off is coming, and educate consumers accordingly. Providing a consistent timeline for everyone in the industry will result in far greater promotion and increased uptake of digital television,” he said.