When will TV stations broadcast in 4K in Australia
The question is when will Australia catch up and start to broadcast in 4K. In November of the previous year, the Australian government sought public opinion through a “Media Reform Green Paper.” This document aimed to address five key issues in the current media landscape. The government stated these reforms would support the Australian media industry and improve the variety and quality of content for all Australians. However, the specifics of how these improvements would materialize remain unclear.
The Central Question: Introduction of DVB-T2 Broadcasting
A critical concern for Australians is the adoption of DVB-T2 broadcasting, which enables 4K Ultra HD transmission. Most digital televisions sold in Australia already support this standard, yet its implementation in the country is still pending.
Impact of Previous Media Reforms
Previous media reforms have significantly influenced the Australian media industry, leading to increased media ownership concentration. This shift has reportedly skewed political messaging and reduced media diversity, impacting the information available to the public.
The Government’s Approach: Questionable Effectiveness
The current media reforms seem geared towards persuading the media industry to accept changes that may not address the core challenges it faces. Critics argue that the government should adopt a consumer-centric perspective to reform the media landscape effectively, aligning with what the public desires.
The Global Context: Australia Falling Behind?
It’s noteworthy that Australians have been buying 4K Ultra HD TVs for over six years. The first such TV was sold in the US in October 2012. However, as of 2021, Australian free-to-air networks have yet to adopt the DVB-T2 standard, which supports both 4K and 8K Ultra HD broadcasting. In contrast, many European countries mandated DVB-T2 in televisions sold after January 2017.
Progress in DVB-T2 Trials
Australia has seen preliminary trials of DVB-T2 in 2018 and a second phase in 2019 in Brisbane and the Gold Coast. The trials were conducted by organizations including TX Australia, Broadcast Australia, and Free TV. Despite these developments, full-scale implementation remains pending.
The Situation in Europe and Beyond
In Europe, it is expected that DVB-T2 will cover over 75% of homes by 2022. Globally, DVB-T2 has become a standard for television broadcasting. Spain even successfully trialed UHD 8K broadcasting using DVB-T2 in October 2020.
Australian Networks: Awaiting Government Support
It appears that Australian free-to-air networks are waiting for government funding to transition to DVB-T2. This reliance on government funding for major infrastructure upgrades reflects a broader trend in Australia, where taxpayer money often subsidizes industry infrastructure projects.
Financial Challenges in the Media Industry
The media industry cites a decline in advertising revenue, partly due to the shift towards pay-per-view sports broadcasting and the rise of streaming media. To address this, the government eased cross-media ownership limits in 2017, leading to a wave of consolidation. However, these measures haven’t resolved the industry’s fundamental financial challenges.
Comparison with International Standards
Australian networks currently allow up to 13 minutes of advertising per hour during prime time, which is significantly higher than the UK average of seven minutes, capped at 12 minutes in prime time.
The Government’s Proposed Media Reforms
The Australian government has proposed several measures, including offering a new type of broadcasting license with reduced regulatory burden, promoting spectrum sharing, and introducing investment obligations for video-on-demand services. However, these reforms don’t seem to directly tackle the main issues facing free-to-air networks.
The Spectrum Debate
The government’s focus on reducing the spectrum available to free-to-air networks, presumably to auction it to mobile network operators, raises questions. This approach might fund the transition to DVB-T2 but could lead to media overcompression across various formats.
The Bottom Line: Falling Behind International Standards
The core issue remains that Australia is lagging in adopting modern broadcasting standards. While Australians increasingly purchase 4K Ultra HD TVs with DVB-T2 capability, most content broadcast remains in standard definition. This gap highlights a policy failure and a disconnect between consumer technology trends and broadcasting standards in Australia.