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Ongoing Media Challenges

Posted by ken On January - 24 - 2010

The media is constantly undergoing transition ever since the invention of paper and the Gothenburg printing press took over from monks in an abbey, each working with ink, paint, brush and pen. This was an important first step towards the democratisation of knowledge.

The invention of photography, the telegraph, telephone, motion pictures, radio, television, satellites, computers and the internet have each revolutionised their eras too.

Those of us who have worked in the media have in some way felt the impact of new technology.

Radio was challenged by television, then reinvented itself to survive. The cinema was also challenged by television, video outlets, home theatres and internet downloading, whilst each step it had to innovate with colour, widescreen and 3D, to still be with us. Free-to air television now has to compete with Pay TV, home recorders with time-shifting, computer games, the internet and program downloading and streaming. The printed media replaced hot metal letterpress equipment with modern offset printing equipment making many of the trades obsolete. Now with competition from the internet, newspapers are feeing the pinch too with falling sales and greater challenges when soliciting advertising.

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In many ways there has been a merging of the technologies as computers, the internet and digital technology reshapes the landscape. Younger generations no longer have a connection to the printed word that their parents experience. Emailing replaced letter writing, then social networking, online chat, forums, blogs, twitter and SMS messaging revolutionised communications.

Who would have thought a few years ago that the twisted pair copper telephone lines would be capably of carrying images, quality audio and vision, as it does now through the humble ADSL internet connection. This will be transformed further once fibre-optic cable reaches each household, whilst others will receive the same services by wireless technology.

High definition television quality is now so good that it can provide a superior viewing experience in the home compared to the 35mm cinema projectors. No wonder the cinema chains are changing over to digital projectors, which not only provide a brilliant image but save on film copying and distribution costs.

Digital terrestrial television in Australia homes commenced on 1 January 2001, in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. Digital services are now available in most areas, however parts of Western Australia, and Central Australia have yet to begin transmissions.

Digital broadcasting has a number of enhancements, primarily higher-quality picture and sound, additional channels, datacasting (news, weather, traffic, stock market, and other information) but also video program guides and high definition.

In Australia we have 5 major free-to-air networks that broadcast digital television; ABC, SBS, Seven Network, Nine Network and Network Ten. These networks broadcast to major metropolitan areas, while various regional affiliates cover rural areas. Principally Prime, Southern Cross and WIN. Though WIN also has a metropolitan presence in Perth and Adelaide.

It is anticipated that between 2010 and 2013, Digital will replace Analogue PAL transmissions.

Meanwhile more than 200,000 Australians in regional and remote areas will be given access to the same number of television stations as city dwellers under a $160 million Rudd Labor government plan to establish a satellite television facility to deliver the digital service. Under this plan, remote viewers will have to purchase a satellite dish to receive the signals before the abolition of the analog service.

Australian Television Broadcasters


The Australian Broadcasting Corporation transmits its free-to-air television services, ABC1, ABC2 and ABC3, as digital services (ABC2 and ABC3 are only available in digital). See also the Introduction to Digital TV on the ABC website.



The Special Broadcasting Service launched their digital channel SBS TWO on 1 June 2009. SBS TWO’s programs include world film and drama, documentaries, international news and sport. SBS TWO will also screen some shows from SBS ONE at different times.


Seven Network

Channel 7HD is a whole channel broadcast in High Definition. Seven Network launched free-to-air digital channel 7TWO in November 2009.


Nine Network

Channel Nine currently broadcasts digital to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Darwin and the Gold Coast. Nine introduced GO! a digital-only channel in August 2009.


Network TEN

Network Ten launched their digital High Definition channel, ONE, in March 2009. The new channel broadcast a number of sports programs, including prime-time AFL matches. The new ONE channel is also available in Standard Definition.


Prime Television Network

Prime HD was launched early January 2008. The Prime Network includes Golden West Network (Western Australia). Its licensed viewing area covers the regional locations of Northern and Southern New South Wales, Victoria, the Gold Coast area of eastern Queensland and all of regional Western Australia. In the eastern states of Australia the broadcast signal is branded as PRIME. In Western Australia the broadcast signal is known as GWN.


Southern Cross Broadcasting

Southern Cross Broadcasting is one of Australia’s leading cross media companies. The group’s television services broadcast throughout the regional areas of New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and Northern Territory.


WIN Television Network

WIN Television is the world’s largest privately owned regional television network reaching more than 5.2 million viewers across Australia.



Golden West Network (GWN) is a subsidiary of Prime Television Limited. It covers the regional locations of Western Australia.


NBN Television

NBN’s market stretches from Central Coast in the south to the Gold Coast, Queensland in the north and west to Moree and Narrabri.


Imparja Television

Imparja Television offers satellite services to regional locations across Australia and currently reaches approximately 454,000 viewers


National Indigenous Television (NITV)

NITV is a 24 hour, 7 day a week service that reaches around 220,000 Australians through 150 terrestrial transmitters in the remote areas and free-to-air satellite from the Aurora satellite platform. It is also available on digital free-to-air Channel 40 in Sydney and the basic tier of all subscription TV services. It began transmissions in July 2007.



FOXTEL is one of Australia’s subscription television providers. On 1 February 2007, FOXTEL announced that it was 100% digital.



AUSTAR is one of Australia’s subscription television providers. All of the channels on AUSTAR are broadcast in digital.


Community TV broadcasters

The licensed Community TV channels are represented by the Australian Community Television Alliance (ACTA). For information about Community TV please refer to the channel in your area. The Community Television channels currently operating are
Adelaide (, Brisbane(, Melbourne (, and Sydney (

Community 31.jpg

To cope with the many challenges our broadcasters will need to innovate and embrace other delivery systems as the various media converges…

In the past 12 months, The ABC has produced a new iPhone application, launched a childrens’ television channel (ABC3), rolled out plans for digital radio, detailed plans for new regional broadband hubs, and unveiled a commentary and analysis website (The Drum).

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ABC App on Apple iPhone

The ABC is pushing hard to embrace the various opportunities thrown up by the digital world.

ABC Island is a PG rated location in Second Life created by ABC Innovations, a division formed in early 2007 as an incubator for digital development across the ABC. Second Life is a free 3D virtual world where users can socialise, connect and create using free voice and text chat.

ABC Island.jpg
ABC Island on Secondlife showing the Central Broadcast Tower, Amphitheatre. Eco House, Melbourne Laneways and Sandbox in the background

ABC NOW is a small, downloadable desktop application that combines the ABC’s television, radio and news, sport and weather “Really Simple Syndication” (RSS) feeds. This benefits internet web readers who want to subscribe to timely updates from many sites and aggregate them into one place.

ABC iView is a video player offering full-length programs as seen on ABC TV. Videos of the selected programs are published on iView after they have appeared on TV. Usually they will appear the next day. Programs are added every day; most programs are available for 14 days.

ABC TV and Sony Computer Entertainment Australia (SCE Aust.) are now delivering ABC iView via the PlayStation®3 (PS3) game console. This is the first in a series of developments to extend ABC iView to a wider audience through access on other platforms.

ABC content is also available on the Australian version of Apple’s iTunes store

As far as TV programs go on iTunes, there’s Australian content from the ABC, Nine Network and TEN Network along with US-produced programs from The Walt Disney Company’s ABC Studios, Disney Channel and MTV Networks all now available for purchase and download.

Meanwhile Seven has Plus7 which offers video streaming of full length episodes as seen on Seven, 7TWO and other content partners.

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Typical Australian TV programs for sale on Apple iTunes store

In addition, Australian & New Zealand residents and iTunes users can rent or download movies from major film studios including 20th Century Fox, The Walt Disney Studios, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. Entertainment, MGM, Sony Pictures Television International and Lionsgate.

These are available from the iTunes Store in Australia ( and the iTunes Store in New Zealand (

The pundits are now predicting that Apple is keen to reshape businesses like classroom textbooks, books in general, magazine and newspaper publications in much the same way that the Apple has revamped the music industry via iPods, home computers, the Apple TV, the Apple iPhone and iTouch. The last two are slick and stylish devices that combined the power of the Internet with the simplicity of Multi-Touch technology. Both are essentially hand held computers, that are not only small multimedia centres, but capable of performing all manner of tasks, courtesy of the many applications made available through Apple’s iTunes store. The mobile power of the iPhone means that it not only a smartphone but can emulate other products, such as a GPS, or what ever the apps developers dream up.

Apple has plans in the works which may cause a revival of traditional publishing, which has been hard hit by the global recession.

Great saving can be made by using digital distribution, rather than the printed form, particularly if costs can be substantially reduced in printing, ink, paper, transportation and labour.

Reports from The Wall Street Journal on January 18, 2010, and other sources indicate that Apple has been in negotiations with publishers to port their content. The Journal reports that HarperCollins Publishers has been negotiating with Apple to make e-books available for sale on iTunes and Apple equipment. It’s an open secret that Apple has been courting publishers, encouraging them to prepare redesigned content for a possible forthcoming tablet device. (Please see the Sports Illustrated demo below.)

They also suggest that Conde Nast Publications and News Corporation were approached by Apple for content-related discussions, along with television networks such as CBS Corp. and Walt Disney Co., which owns ABC, for a monthly TV subscription service.

Somewhere between the iTunes model and the iPhone applications store, where people pay for music, movies, TV programs and applications that make their life better or simpler, there may be a model for print.

If so, then the whole media landscape is likely to undergo changes even more dramatic than the centralisation of broadcasting services, resulting from satellite and computer automation technology.

Conventional printed newspaper and magazine distribution is already shrinking in the same way record store sales have been impacted by downloading activities and both may eventually disappear as we now know them.

Free to air TV may also be under treat if overtaken my alternate means of program delivery, with programs being available on demand and not subject to the decisions of a television scheduling executive.

Cinemas are addressing the current challenges by introducing digital and 3D projection and luxury viewing facilities with food and beverage catering. Though 3D widescreen equipment for the home is already in the pipeline, so there is now a consistant pressure on all media forms to adapt or perish.

3 Responses to “Ongoing Media Challenges”

  1. Harry Smith says:

    Wow Ken what an effort to compile all of this information that all of us oldies have grown up with.
    Great stuff and keep up the good work – you are doing a sterling job.
    Best Wishes Harry Smith
    Vice President AMMPT.

    P.S. I recently visited the National Museum of Photography, Film and TV in Bradford Yorkshire UK, definitely a place to spend time at.
    It certainly reminded me of my first days in television when transmissions were being sent into homes to be viewed on the latest 9″ and 12″ black and white CRT screens. These TV’s and lots of other memorabilia are all on display at this museum.
    What we need is support to create a similar venue in Perth??

  2. ivan says:

    shame, shame, shame,Australia shame only 5 – 6 channels,even former Yugoslavia has over 40 TV channels.

  3. Kalab says:

    Australia doesn’t have 5-6 channels it had 46

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