Australia: News Channel Reluctantly Going HD

Technically similar to local DTV broadcasting in America, ABC in Australia currently has enough spectrum to program one HD channel and three SD outlets simultaneously — and it has now decided to dedicate its lone HD venue to its news channel. (ABC is Australia’s national public broadcaster.)

At the same time, ABC seemed to acknowledge at a government hearing that carrying its news content was not putting its best HD face forward for viewers who may be seeing HD for the first time. But for a variety of reasons, ABC said, it has little choice for the moment.

ABC is currently simulcasting content from its main channel, ABC1, on its HD outlet — a cost-savings and convenience (albeit redundant) that will cease once the HD channel takes on the news programming.

An ABC official testified at the government hearing that news footage gleaned from an array of technical sources, and talking heads, perhaps do not take fullest advantage of HD’s video and audio capabilities, but that the government broadcaster had to consider content and spending limits for all four of its channels at the same time, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

ABC’s news switch to its HD channel will not happen for several months, when the broadcaster estimates about half of all Australian homes will have HD-capable sets. The country’s total transition out of analog is not scheduled until 2013, when ABC figures more than 90 percent of viewers will have HD.