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Digital TV: Where To From Here?

Digital TV commenced in Australia on 1st January 2001 - yes, nine years ago, making Australia one of the first countries to start regular DTV transmissions. These transmissions now cover 60% of the population but for Australians to get full HD programming, we need MPEG-4 broadcasts. At present, we are being short-changed.

By Alan Hughes

What has happened with Digital TV since 2001? As far as programming is concerned, the answer must be “Not much!”

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You don’t have to pay a lot to get Freeview Certification (whatever that actually means - Freeview won’t tell anyone!). This HD Set Top Box was recently being offered through ALDI stores for just $99 – and that includes MHEG-5 interactive middleware enabled, MPEG2 and MPEG4 AVC format decoding and 1080i/720p/576i display modes

Sure, the networks can now transmit both SD and HDTV but there is little that is true HD - and most HD is merely simulcast with the SD programs anyway. Believe it or not, a lot of the do-called “HD” programming is itself up-scaled from SD, which means that it might fill a large screen but quality-wise, it’s no better than the SD program.

We’ll explain the important difference between HD and true HD (or more correctly Full HD) shortly.

However, on the reception side, there have been considerable developments. Over the last few years, a large proportion of the population has upgraded their TV sets to large-screen LCD or plasma HD sets. Many people have also purchased Blu-Ray players which are recorded at the ‘Full HD’ standard. When connected to a display with an HDMI or component video cable, many large-screen TVs and projectors will display the image at this quality. But free-to-air broadcasters and Pay-TV operators do not transmit signals at the ‘Full HD’ standard.


We’ve also been “blessed” with a raft of “new” digital TV programming under the “Freeview” banner but as viewers well know, that hasn’t meant much in the way of new programs.

In fact, during 2009 TV channels were forced to change their advertising which claimed Freeview offered a whole lot more than it delivered.

With only a few exceptions, most new Freeview channels are simply copies of existing channels.

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