In an industry first, all of the commercial TV broadcasters have announced today they will provide an electronic program guide to all manufacturers of free-to-air personal video recorders and similar services..
Julie Flynn, chief executive officer of industry body Free TV said the announcement was a "critical plank" in the transition to digital adoption.
"Free-to-view digital television is an open platform -- available to every household in Australia. In the same spirit, we believe all consumers should be able to access our electronic program information", Flynn said.
The announcement comes after Harold Mitchell, chairman and CEO of Mitchell and Partners, told CNET.com.au last month that an agreement between the networks had been struck.
The new agreement will mean that services such as IceTV and the forthcoming TiVo will be able to use the TV program data provided they meet the terms set down by the stations and Free TV.
A spokesperson for Channel Ten said the Free TV "principles" included encrypting the data to protect the guide information involved.
"If a service provider agrees to the principles they can get our data", she said.
At present, the EPG will only be available to free-to-air services, and will not affect the ongoing dispute between Foxtel, Seven and Ten or be available to the upcoming Channels A and B.
General Manager of IceTV Matt Kossatz said today's announcement should "shed some light" on the court precedings between Channel Nine and IceTV. Channel Nine claims that the IceTV guide is a breach of the station's copyright.
"We strongly believe we're not using copyrighted material from Channel Nine or any other network and we go to extreme lengths to prevent that," Kossatz said.
Kossatz said that the agreement is "something that we've wanted for a long time" and added that it wouldn't affect his business because IceTV "isn't just an EPG" but a service that included remote recording via the Internet and other exclusive features.
The EPG could be available in as little as three months, but the way the data will be delivered is still being worked out -- it could take form of a signal broadcast alongside the digital transmission.
Kossatz said he hopes IceTV will be involved in determining the best method: "We've been doing this for several years now. If anyone's an expert on distribution of guide information to digital recorders -- we're the people".