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Published on Dec 12, 2013
Good evening and welcome to television. I can remember actually going to a twenty first birthday party where we all sat on the floor and watched a little tiny screen because someone in our street had got the first black-and-white TV. It's been a long time coming. Richard Alston was the Minister that got it going and then Helen Coonan and Stephen Conroy and, for a brief while, Anthony Albanese. And now I'm the Minister under whom analogue will come to an end. But what a dynamic industry, what a dynamic medium. In the early years, take-up was not as quick as we would've liked. And so when I was Minister, I understood that there needed to be some significant driver and there was legislation to introduce multi-channelling, which gave consumers more choice, and a number of other measures including putting in place Digital Australia. The prospect of touching eight million Australians' homes, and even more importantly, touching their ability to watch the footy, watch the cricket, watch their favourite Home and Away episode, was one of those Yes Minister, shudder, shiver down the spine moments. We worked with Government to make it all happen because the broadcasters have the on-the-ground experience. It was a very cooperative process, working with the Minister's office, the Department, the Digital Switchover Task Force and the ACMA. And because of the contribution from all players, I think that contributed a lot to the success of the whole programme. To start off with digital, we had to convert all of our studiosfrom analogue to digital. That was the first task. The second task was the rollout of transmitters. So in the conversion process of converting the studios, we had to get the digital signal from the studios to the transmitter sites. So that meant that we had to have a distribution network. The task was massive. Massive. - By around about 2009, only 47 per cent of people had made the conversion to digital television. So to really ramp up that process and to deliver in the timeframe we needed to, we needed many more programmes, much more information flow and an enormous amount of coordination between us and the broadcasters and local communities, as well. The Multicultural Ambassadors served a pivotal role in ensuring that we were a bridge between the technology to come and the people that we wanted to make sure came with us. Vision Australia was really pleased to be part of the Consumer Expert Group and we saw it as a really important element of the whole Switchover. The talking set-top-box meant that people who are blind had full access to all of the features of digital TV. So what free-to-air television represents, and the Digital Switchover's success represents, is another step emphasising the great egalitarian tradition of Australia. You just look in awe at what the technology can do and what it can deliver. So it's bigger than going from black-and-white to colour. No doubt.