By James Wells

SYDNEY: Newspaper and online publisher, John Fairfax, has signalled its intentions that it would like to play a part in the next stage of digital television.

Fairfax, the owner of the Sydney Morning Herald, Australian Financial Review and The Age as well as related digital services, published an article today which explained the company’s desire to bid for one of two new digital licences which could support up to 15 new in-home channels and another 15 channels distributed to mobile devices.

The introduction of the digital licences by Senator Helen Coonan, which have interested Fairfax, Macquarie Bank’s Broadcast Australia and Telstra, coincides with the plan to change cross-media and foreign ownership restrictions.

Free-to-air networks and pay television operators are expected to be allowed to bid for the digital licence which will allow content to be distributed to mobile devices.

“Fairfax is adamant that the free-to-air networks and pay TV operator Foxtel, including its shareholders Telstra, News Ltd and PBL, should not be able to bid for either of the digital licences,” the article published in the Sydney Morning Herald said.

According to the article, Senator Coonan was keen to avoid a repeat of the criticism associated with datacasting, which has been introduced since 2001. Datacasting has failed to encourage the purchase of set top boxes or integrated digital televisions due to the restrictions on the content. The restrictions included bans on certain programming as well as limiting news bulletins to 10 minutes and not allowing presenters.