Australia’s free-to-air broadcasters have confirmed their commitment to a common platform based on open standards for interactive services on digital terrestrial television.

Free-to-air broadcasters will be authoring interactive applications using MHP, a subset of HTML, or a mix of both.

The statement was made on behalf of the ABC, Seven, Nine, Ten, SBS and the Regional Broadcasters of Australia.

The free-to-air broadcasters have indicated that interactive set top boxes for the Australian market should be manufactured to support the MHP 1.0.2 standard as a minimum.

These boxes will be able to receive all interactive applications broadcast by Australian free-to-air television broadcasters. In the case of HTML, broadcasters have indicated that they will be transmitting a browser with the HTML application to ensure that MHP 1.0.2 boxes without a resident browser will be able to receive and interpret the application.

Broadcasters have also stipulated that set top boxes should be “forward compatible” so that applications authored for first generation interactive boxes should also be receivable on later versions.

Australia initially made the decision to adopt MHP back in November 2001. Around 400,000 free-to-air set-top boxes are already in use in Australia.

After more than three years, the free-to-air broadcasters will have the ability to compete with the interactive capabilities of digital pay-television networks.

Foxtel has begun promoting interactivity as one of its key selling points since the launch of the new Foxtel Digital service, initially with interactive enhancements to news, sports and weather coverage, similar to those seen on BSkyB in the UK.