Oz pledges digital transition funds

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SYDNEY -- The Australian government has committed AUS$37.9 million ($35 million) to programs and agencies to ensure that the country's transition to digital broadcasting is completed within five years, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said Wednesday.

The new program includes fund for broadcast regulator the Australian Communications and Media Authority to undertake technical transition-related projects, including an evaluation of digital TV transmission and reception throughout Australia.

It also includes funds to assess such issues as public awareness of the digital switchover and the consumer-focused "digital ready" product logo and labeling plan to indicate which products which meet that qualification.

AUS$16.9 million ($15.53 million) has been earmarked to establish the Digital Switchover Taskforce, which will coordinate the switchover program within the minister's own Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy. British digital expert Andy Townend heads the effort.

In addition, a new Industry Advisory Group has been established, bringing together broadcasters, retailers, manufacturers, antenna technicians, public and commercial housing agencies as well as government departments to assist with a smooth transition.

Conroy said that the switchover "could well be the largest change on a national scale since the introduction of decimal currency in 1966."

The switchover also will free up broadcasting spectrum that "is potentially available for reallocation and sale for new services such as wireless internet, mobile telephony and broadcasting," he said.

The government last year mandated Dec. 31, 2013, as the deadline to end analog broadcasts in Australia.

About 30% of Australian homes can receive digital terrestrial broadcasting services.
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