The AFL grand final is this weekend; the NRL follows the weekend after. That means for two weeks in a row Australians will be forced to watch key sporting events in standard definition (SD) broadcasts, despite every free-to-air network having an HD channel. Digital TV is universal now, so why aren't these major events available in HD?
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It's an annoyance we've covered several times before, and despite the fact that the digital switchover officially happened this year, meaning no-one is watching analogue broadcasts anymore, nothing has changed.
As TV Tonight points out in an in-depth examination of the topic , the main reason we're stuck with SD grand finals is the infamous "anti-siphoning list", which identifies sporting matches which are deemed so essential to the national psyche that they must be made available on free-to-air channels. Both grand finals are on the list, and part of the anti-siphoning requirement is that any sport on the list must be broadcast on the main channel (that is, Seven rather than Seven Mate or 7Two, Nine rather than GEM or GO!, and Ten rather than ONE or Eleven). Those main channels are only in SD right now.
There is no legislative reason, however, why both Seven (which has the AFL rights) and Nine (which has NRL) could not film the match in HD, show it on their respective HD channels (7Mate and GEM respectively) and then transmit a downscaled version on their SD main channel as well, thus satisfying the legal requirements. Indeed, that could be a useful way for networks to measure just how keen people actually are on watching HD content.
So the networks could, but they won't. They'd rather score a handful of additional advertising dollars for minor programs on their secondary channels, knowing that people who want to watch the grand final in either code don't have any other choice, and saving on the cost of HD cameras.
There's also no legislative reason, now that switchover has happened, why commercial channels couldn't switch their main channel broadcasts to HD if they wished. But none has yet made a move to do so. If you want HD sport, the only guaranteed option is Foxtel — you have to pay for that, but you still miss out on the grand finals.
This kind of continued contempt for consumers is the reason why so many Australians now avoid broadcast TV whenever possible, switching to online means (whatever their official legal status). Maybe things will improve for 2015, but this year, footy fans are still forced to live in a standard-definition universe for the most important games of the year.
Why the hold-up to change primary channels to HD? [TV Tonight]