Oz nets balk at 4th web

Nets claim country's population can't support another channel

This article was updated at 8:45 p.m.

SYDNEY — Australia’s terrestrial commercial webs Nine, Ten and Seven have hit at government plans to greenlight another free-to-air network.

They claim the country’s 20 million population can’t support a fourth channel.

The government flagged the possibility when it announced a review of digital TV policy Monday, adding that it — not the Australian Broadcasting Authority — would decide if a fourth broadcasting license would be issued after 2006.

The review will also examine whether broadcasters can use the digital spectrum to launch channels, called multichanneling, and whether these should be pay services — a prospect that alarms payboxes Foxtel and Austar.

Seven is the only free-to-air web in favor of multichanneling.

The review will be completed by January, after the national elections. The opposition Labor Party has yet to decide its policy on a fourth terrestrial web.

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