Australian TV Networks Are Sick Of Not Offering HD On Their Main Channels

One of the most frequent complaints we hear about TV in Australia is the fact that the main channel for each network is standard definition (SD), while high definition (HD) broadcasts are only found on secondary channels. Turns out TV networks are nearly as unhappy about that as you are.

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Although each channel was granted some HD spectrum, commercial TV networks were required to broadcast their main channel in SD while we were switching from analogue to digital, to ensure that all viewers could see that content. Hence 7mate for Seven, GEM for Nine and One for Ten all run in HD, but HD isn't supported on the primary channels for those networks. (Different rules apply for the government-owned ABC, which uses its HD spectrum for ABC News 24, and SBS, which runs SBS HD as a replica of its main SD channel.)

Since that switchover was completed at the end of 2013, it seems illogical not to offer the primary channel for each network on HD. The only viewers who wouldn't be able to see those channels now would be anyone who had a cheap digital set-top box that only supported SD broadcasts.

Turns out TV networks are agitating for that change to happen. As TV Tonight reports, industry association Free TV Australia has been asked by the government to make a submission on the issue by the end of March. Free TV Australia CEO Julie Flynn put it bluntly:

It is something we are absolutely working on and it is something we hope the government will do, but they have not yet done. They have proposed that we get rid of that restriction that we can't do HD on the main channel. This is something they could do tomorrow. Just do it. It's bleedingly obvious.

One possible roadblock? That request is tied up with various other changes the networks would like, including a reduction in their licence fees, which is likely to delay the decision. If the request for HD was being made on its own, it might be processed more quickly.

It's also important to remember that a switch to HD wouldn't necessarily mean that absolutely every single broadcast was in HD. The lack of HD broadcasts for free-to-air sporting events is another common source of complaints, but wouldn't necessarily be fixed simply by switching the main channels to HD spectrum — networks still have to film in HD for that to happen.

"Just do it!" Networks tell govt to allow primary channels to switch to HD. [TV Tonight]


    And if you do rollout HD channels, give it some bitrate... And no quasi-HD bullshit resolutions, I'm looking at you 1440x1080.

    HD in Australia is a joke, and FOXTEL is laughing,

      That would be nice, but current terrestrial TV cannot be broadcast in 1080p. FOXTEL broadcast all their HD channels at 1080i with the exception of ESPN which is broadcast in 720p.

        Why can't they broadcast on 1080p? What stops that bit rate?

          I'm pretty sure the DVB-T can broadcast in 1920x1080i in the MPEG-4 format. I don't know if it's possible to broadcast in 1080p as there is no country in the world that does. FOXTEL may have bandwidth limitations due to its satellite service.

    Perhaps our forward thinking, technologically savvy government will be on board with this!

      Now I feel bad because it isn't going to happen :(

    The lack of HD broadcasts for free-to-air sporting events is another common source of complaints, but wouldn’t necessarily be fixed simply by switching the main channels to HD spectrum — networks still have to film in HD for that to happen

    Would the major networks really not have HD equipment as standard for all of their filming?

    Almost all major sporting events in Australia are filmed in HD, couple examples:

    NRL regular season games that are exclusively live to Nine (in SD), are replayed the next day on Foxtel (in HD)
    Cricket games exclusive to Nine switch to GEM while the news is on - is filmed in HD as proven by the substantial quality improvement on the GEM broadcast - you can actually see the ball!

      Yes, the major sporting events are all shot in HD, so this would not be a problem.

      You'd like to think so. But many AFL games are still shot by 7 in SD. Foxtel then upscales these to 720p for it's Footy channel. The "HD" version looks better than SD but suffers from stuttering and blurring during fast motion shots. Fortunately Foxtel shoots some games itself in 1080i.

      They definitely film in HD, otherwise international channels wouldn't purchase their content.

      While Ch9 broadcast the cricket in HD. If your outside the metro footprint you don't get the HD broadcast. In Wollongong we have the sucky SD broadcast while the commentators all spruck the HD broadcast.

    Yeah, seriously, there are 4K televisions at all retailers now, and broadcasts are in SD??
    That is what, one twentieth of the resolution of 4K?

    *Slow Clap*

    I believe it's because the government rolled out SD Set top boxes for all the (a huge portion of) pensioners - with this change they will all become redundant and require upgrades making the governments purchase redundant.

    It was a stupid idea in the first place but they cut costs where they could, no surprise.

      Only goes to show how short sighted governments are when it comes to technology and future proofing (here's looking at your Turnbull and your shitty NBN).

      Perfect timing, they can blame it on Labor and dust their hands like they do with everything else.

    Saw one of the camera guys setting up at the G the other day for the world cup cricket. Saw that the camera he had was 4k. He said they beam it back to Sydney at that res. Lets skip HD and go straight to 4k.

    anyone who had a cheap digital set-top box that only supported SD broadcasts
    Or early adopters who didn't play catch-up.

    networks still have to film in HD for that to happen.

    But the channels do film in HD. Sunrise, today show and Ten's morning shows are all filmed in HD and then downscaled to SD. All produced Aussie shows for 7, 9, 10, SBS and ABC are all filmed in HD as well e.g The block, Shark Tank, Family Feud.

    And all the US shows are in HD natively as well. Sport, as far as I know, is shot in HD.

    Didn't they originally have a mirror channel of the main channels that was broadcast in HD? What happened to those?

    I'll bite. My tin foil hat radar detects a conspiracy!
    The big tele companies are struggling for sales in a saturated market. Why wouldn't they wave a wad of cash at FTA channel execs to change their main channels to HD and get an instant sales boost? What we will get - HD for 6 months (or until the sales spike is over) and then the FTA channels will pull the rug... again... because ads don't make more money being showed in HD...

      In what universe does that make sense?

        Ummm, in the same universe that had FTA channels roll out HD signals for 12 months to convince people to upgrade their SD sets and only then to stop broadcasting HD feeds. I dunno where that universe is though...

    From the article:

    In December 2013 FreeTV Australia wrote to Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull... the government has asked networks to respond by the end of March

    It took over twelve months for the Government to do what basically amounts to reading FreeTV's letter, so by extrapolation we can expect broadcasting legislation to be updated by about 2023.

    Deleted - duplicate post...

    Last edited 04/03/15 1:43 pm

    Question: When, and why did the 'standard definition' reduce from 720i to 576i? The lack of definition is becoming more obvious on higher definition screens. (this in addition to the lack of 1080i services). Is this to gain additional channels for commercial broadcasters? Following US SD (576) and US HD (720)?

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