The Federal Government is investing $220 million over the next three financial years in Television License fee rebates that will help networks transition from analogue to digital TV.
Announced yesterday, the rebate will apply to Australia's commercial TV networks, including the Seven Network, Nine Network, Network Ten, Macquarie Southern Cross Media, Prime Television and WIN Television.
"The Government recognises that the commercial television broadcasters will require some assistance to maintain Australian content production while investing in a new delivery platform nationally," said Senator Stephen Conroy, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy.
"They [broadcasters] are faced with a converging media environment and switch to digital television, as well as the impact on revenue created by a decline in advertising spend as a result of the Global Financial Crisis."
A spokesperson for Senator Conroy said that the switch to digital TV could bring "significant social and economic benefits" by freeing up radio-frequency spectrum that could be used for new communications services such as wireless broadband.
By phasing out analogue TV and moving some digital TV services to new channels, the Government plans to establish 126 MHz of contiguous ultra-high frequency spectrum.
In addition to the newly announced rebate, the Government also plans to review the future role of Television Licence fees in Australia.
According to the Australian Communications and Media Authority, Television Licence fees were $286.8 million in 2008-09. The rebate will reduce fees by one third in 2010 and half in 2011.
For comparison, Television Licence fees are $36.3m in the UK, $29.8m in Canada, $18.6m in the U.S. and $723,000 in New Zealand, according to October 2009 figures compiled by industry body Free TV Australia.