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Government chases spectrum efficiency for TV signals

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher is in discussions with ABC and SBS’ broadcast tower operator about the national broadcasters’ transmission costs as the government looks to reduce the amount of television spectrum networks use for their services.

Almost 20 per cent of ABC and SBS’ annual funding is allocated to transmission services, which allow content to be beamed to televisions across the country, and most of that money goes to BAI Communications. The company also broadcasts signals for Network Ten and Southern Cross Austereo.

Unlike telcos, commercial networks don't have to bid for spectrum or pay to renew their licences.

Unlike telcos, commercial networks don’t have to bid for spectrum or pay to renew their licences. Credit:Louie Douvis

Industry sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that Mr Fletcher had talked to BAI Communications, formerly known as Broadcast Australia, to explore how networks can use the available spectrum more efficiently.

One measure available to the networks is the use of compression technology, which allows every signal to carry more information. However, transition to this new technology – known as DVB-T2 – could cost hundreds of millions that the broadcasters cannot afford. BAI Communications has long-term contracts in place with ABC and SBS, but industry sources have speculated the company could carry the cost of converting the national broadcasters onto the new technology.

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