ABC digital TV bandwidth strained to maximum capacity

Unstable data compression compounded by a lack of high-definition television (HDTV) digital broadcast spectrum has forced Australia's national broadcaster to choke the quality of its digital signal to free-to-air digital television viewers.

ABC managing director Russell Balding told a Senate Estimates committee hearing that the ABC's decision to broaden the amount of digital content over the bandwidth of the HDTV signal had resulted in a sacrifice of digital reception quality.

"Compression technology is continuing to address it. But it comes back to the fact that we have made the decision to not just have high definition television. We have made a decision to have as broad a range of content available as possible. That compromises, to a degree, the quality of the high definition signal," Balding said.

The ABC currently transmits two HDTV channels, the main ABC service - which is actually converted from standard definition digital to HDTV - and ABC2 which is created in HDTV but can also be received on standard defintion. ABC2 describes itself as "new and time-shifted ABC programming" which features a mix of children's programs, repeats and documentary and arts oriented programming.

The quality compromise issue appears to have raised the ire of some country Victorians, with Labor Senator Steven Conroy forcing an admission from Balding that some of Aunty's customers are complaining "the high definition signal is worse than the standard definition signal."

"It is a finite spectrum that we have to work with. We have to fit it all in," Balding said.

ABC director of technology and distribution Colin Knowles was more direct about what the lack of compression and bandwidth capacity meant, telling the Estimates committee ABC2 would have to be killed off to in order to improve HDTV bandwidth.

"In order to accommodate the second channel and the main channel, we have had to reduce the amount of available bandwidth for the high definition channel," he said.

"Most of the content that people complain about is in fact converted from standard definition up to high definition rather than converted from high definition down, if you like, to squeeze into place. It is a trade off."

Asked whether the ABC's publicly funded rival SBS was transmitting a superior HDTV signal, Balding was emphatic about where his viewing loyalty lay.

"I do not watch SBS," Balding said adding his "very early model" HDTV box at home provided him with a "a good quality picture".

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Julian Bajkowski

Show Comments


James Cook University - Master of Data Science Online Course

Learn more >


Sansai 6-Outlet Power Board + 4-Port USB Charging Station

Learn more >

Victorinox Werks Professional Executive 17 Laptop Case

Learn more >



Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?