By Matthew Henry

CANBERRA: The Australian Digital Suppliers Industry Forum (ADSIF), has called on the federal government to clear up uncertainty about the end of analogue television broadcasting by setting a firm date for the switchover to full digital broadcasting.

The group, which includes members Sony, LG Electronics and Samsung, has made a request which echoes similar sentiments made by Samsung Electronics in July last year following the government’s media policy announcement when it made the vague suggestion that switchover could occur some time between 2010 and 2012.

ADSIF says that the government needs to name a final date for the digital television suppliers, installers and retailers to work towards, otherwise analogue broadcasting could continue indefinitely.

“By setting a firm switchover timetable now, those viewers still watching the limited number of lower-quality analogue TV services will have adequate time to make the conversion to digital television,” said ADSIF steering committee chair, Ross Henderson.

“A firm switchover date also gives certainty and provides a focus for broadcasters, suppliers, retailers and installers. Government and industry will need to work together to ensure that the transition to digital television is as seamless as possible for viewers still watching analogue television.”

ADSIF believes the date should be set some time within federal communications minister Helen Coonan’s proposed 2010 to 2012 timeframe, which would allow ample time for a timetable to be created for a seamless switchover.

Consumer demand for flat panel televisions with integrated HD digital tuners grew substantially during 2006 with some suppliers claiming that televisions incorporating the technology now account for upwards of 80 per cent of sales value.

“Consumers love the high definition picture quality on these flat panel screens and the digital recording capability available with many external digital receivers,” said Henderson.

“The industry predicts a further surge in sales with the commencement of the first high definition live sports broadcasts on free to air television in coming months.”

ADSIF predicts that around 9.5 million digital integrated televisions and 4.5 million standalone tuners will be sold over the next six years.

According to Henderson, demand for digital television could also be given a boost when the analogue simulcast is finally ended as it will free up spectrum for more digital content such as multi-channelling for new programs or digital radio and data channels.