The number of Australians buying digital televisions or set top boxes is so small that the Federal government is looking at delaying plans to switch off analogue transmission broadcasting in 2008, possibly until the middle of the next decade.

But why is the government involved in this issue at all? This is a classic market competition issue that can and should be decided by the various players – the networks, appliance sellers and program makers. Why is it important to convert to digital TV? The people who are keenest on the idea are some vested interests who were forced to make investments in digital technology ahead of the market and now need a fast return.

The government has also stuck its beak into the argument over what sort of digital technology should be used – the equivalent of buying into VHS versus Beta 20 years ago. Industry and consumers should decide.

It’s in nobody’s interest to see the broadcasting equivalent of the policy debacle that saw Telstra dismantle its multi-billion dollar, broad coverage analogue mobile phone network less than a third of the way into its economic service life. Indeed, talking of Telstra and high quality provision of TV services, why not push the communications and IT oligopoly to remove the infrastructure bottleneck that’s preventing broadband take-up?