Austar under fire from the bush

EXCLUSIVE: When 111 Hits, CBeebies and BBC Knowledge launched on November 1st there was an outcry from the bush. TV Tonight turns to Austar to find out why regional viewers missed out yet again.

EXCLUSIVE: When three new channels (111 Hits, CBeebies and BBC Knowledge) launched to Foxtel customers on November 1st there was an outcry from the bush. Austar’s regional customers missed out on the treats that were available to their city cousins.

TV Tonight heard your pleas, and turned to Austar for some answers.

A spokesperson for Austar said it was not offering the channels because it didn’t want to pass on extra costs to its customers.

“Every channel that we look at is an extra cost,” she said. “We get offers of hundreds of channels a year to put on the service. We have an existing channel line-up which we think is fantastic. But we have to be very careful what channels we put up because it’s all an incremental cost and this is a difficult climate for our customers. We don’t want to have to ask our customers to pay more and more. So at this stage we have not made a decision to put any of the new 3 channels on.

“We hope at some stage to be able to offer new channels to customers but at this stage we’re very comfortable with our channel line-up.”

However, the 111 Hits Channel, comprised largely of repeat programmes from several other channels, is offered to Foxtel customers as part of its basic package, without any extra cost to customers.

“That’s a Foxtel decision,” she said. “Foxtel and Austar are two separate companies. While we have a very similar channel line-up there are certain differences. They have channels in tiers that we have in basic such as MTV, the W Channel and so forth. Our packages aren’t completely synonymous.”

Exacerbating the problem for viewers was the fact that Austar channels had been running promotions for the arrival of new channels.

On November 1st, TV Tonight readers vented their anger.

“Why the hell tease us with all your D Grade tv “stars” raving about how they loved the old shows……..and then give us nothing, no apology, no explanation about how we won’t be receiving the new channel….. nothing!!” said Raechel.

“You mean I had to sit through ad after ad, getting more excited as they went on, only to not actually get the damn thing?! What BS!!” said Jenny.

“I am so pissed that we that get Austar can’t get this channel. I really wanted to see The Wonder Years again I was also hoping to see some new shows that aren’t already on other channels,” said Wendy.

“Austar is an absolute joke! First I hear they will not invest in HD television and now they have no intentions of adding the new Foxtel stations to our subscribers. We keep seeing the advertisements for both yet we cannot get access to them. Also, we are not allowed access to the free-to-air channels 7, 9 and 10 the way Foxtel subscribers currently enjoy. Austar subscribers stand up and be counted! Enough is enough!” said Mick.

“I’m absolutely sick of being considered a second class citizen, just because I live a little bit outside of what the entertainment and communications industries consider the “desirable” zone.” said Suze.

Austar defended that there are cross-channel promotions across its platform, which did indeed tempt viewers with 111 Hits.

“There have been promotions on the platform for Channel 111 but these have been accompanied by disclaimers that the channels will only launch on Foxtel,” said the spokesperson.”When the ad comes up there is a voice-over that says the channel is only available to Foxtel viewers.

“There was a 2 day period in error where the channel failed to put the disclaimers up,” she acknowledged. “They’ve since assured us they’re running, and should be running, for Channel 111 in the future.”

Austar is also unable to provide the new HD Channel BBC Knowledge because it hasn’t yet launched its HD MyStar, its network equivalent of Foxtel’s iQ2. It’s not expected until late 2009.

“We’re currently developing our HD MyStar and we expect to launch that later next year. We don’t have an HD product in the market and therefore we don’t have the ability to show HD Channels.”

So far there are no decisions on what channels the HD MyStar will offer when it launches.

Austar says 10% of its residential customers have the current MyStar box, which has two free to air tuners as well as satellite tuners. While the FTA tuners do pick-up local digital channels other subscribers are missing out.

“We worked very hard to get those tuners put in the box,” said the spokesperson. “We’re only the second company in the world to have a box with those two sets of tuners.

“The Austar EPG absolutely has all of the information for the local channels. That’s a huge amount of work. That’s all of the local stations providing us with information to put on the EPG.”

But while our cities have five metropolitan channels there are 98 regional organisations which would be involved in the re-transmission of local channels, creating a capacity issue as well as an accordance minefield.

No doubt regional viewers will be lobbying the new Minister for Communications on the shortcomings of being a country TV viewer, and how they are being whipped by a significant lack of competition.

Austar can be contacted on [email protected] or calling 132 342.

41 Responses

  1. only just moved to oz from nz…got austar connected within the month and 3 months later had it disconnected over billing enquires. didnt have a cellphone, so used my sister in laws mobile number as a contact….she booked movies using her cellphone and Austar charged both of us…..i rang immediately after i received the bill, one operator told me, it was their error and to disregard…not long after i received reminder letters…after the first few, i grew concern.ringing them back up 6 weeks later, i was informed that any recorded calls have now been deleted and my claim was no longer valid…sky tv in nz is way superior than Austar…

  2. I have had nothing but trouble with austar over a payment.
    Now they have taken this to a collection agency.
    I will never be a customer again .if any wants to tell there complaint to me please email me

  3. Who even bothers with Austar anymore? I think I might discontinue my service very soon. Right now my kid is complaining because on Nickelodeon [at the moment] there is an annoying pop-up in the upper left corner of the screen. It is some kind of game called “Operation Cod Wallop” and the pop has constantly (well every time he has wanted to watch that channel) been there taking up almost a quarter of the screen every day. We tried to remove it, but there isn’t an option to remove it from the screen (as far as I could see). I am getting sick of hearing him complain about it. I mean honestly, you fork out the big bucks for the blasted service and then they cover the screen with pop-ups so that you can’t even see the screen anyway.

  4. This is utter Bull S**t… I have been an Austar Subscriber for 2 years and really I don’t know why I have wasted my money with them… Nothing but dissapointment after dissapointment

  5. I live in Nerang on the Gold Coast 12km from Surfers .Moved here in 2000
    We had Foxtel in Sydney,found out Foxtel only available via cable on the Gold Coast,which they don’t do in Nerang.We had no choice but Austar,then found out after installation that free to air stations were not included in Austar package.
    As we were in a black spot for free to air TV stations this really p’s me off.
    We do get ABC and SBS now, but roll on Foxtel.

  6. I totally agree with you Gav,I am sick of people from the capital cities calling regional areas the bush,I live in a town that is not far from Port Pirie,I class us as regional Australians not people from the bush,I reckon people from the bush are in outback communities.Also Buddy what is wrong with competition in this country,I am not a whinger but do believe in competition,how would you like it if you were stuck with one electricity provider and one phone provider like it was years ago,once there was competion the prices dropped.Buddy let people voice their opinion and stop calling other people whingers.

  7. The thing that gets me is most of all is, you keep saying the bush, Why??? I live in a large city and I am stuck with Austar, to me the bush is small towns or rural places like Longreach, Winton etc, we have big cities in regional Australia you know, like Cairns, Rockhampton, Hobart, Darwin, Toowoomba….all are cities….so knock off this in the bush crap as this may be why we don’t get Foxtel, the city I live in has almost 200’000 people and is on the coast……no bush around here for about 60km.

  8. I actually love Austar. True, I had one or two issues with mystar but when I rang the people on the end of the phone couldn’t have been more helpful and pleasant. My problems were fixed in a flash. I remember when Austar was CETV too. The way I see it is that it was Austar that was willing to take the gamble and come to the bush when all the others wanted to fight over easy pickings in the capital cities. The struggles I’ve had are like the struggles they must have had setting up and as Austar has been good to me so I’ll be good to Austar – isn’t that the Aussie way? Stop whingeing and be happy for what you’ve got !!.

  9. In response to Chris.
    I too remember 2 B&W channels as well as cars with unnassisted drum brakes and no antilock systems. We dont really marvel at this technology (more important you would think) and having to pay for a lot of channels that a lot of people just dont watch while loosing shows they do is not good business nor is it perceived as good value. If we had a choice we could send Austar the message which a lot of poeple posting here seem to desire.

  10. I have paid austar forn their service for 8 years and as a reward for being a loyal customer I was forced to change to digital earlier this year. I guess this had to happen for their own economics although I was happy with the anolouge basic package I noticed that many shows that I watched were graduly dissapearing from the anolouge network during the last year it excisted. Now that I have been forced to pay more for what ammounts to less than what I had, I have to now watch shows dissapear from the digital network. All this while they advertise the new channels that the shows we have lost will be on. Now I find out that we wont get these channels. AUSTAR you suck!!! Clog their phone lines with complaints until they stop treating us as second class citizens. Beware if they offer you a free 6 months subscription to their extras package that they don’t bill you for these extras as they did me. If they do this don’t pay the bill as they will soon call you to find out why.

  11. Oh dear!
    I well remember the days of my youth where we had two black and white tv channels, (albeit free), and now I have Mystar and free to record and watch whatever I like for a pittance.
    Boo hooo I can’t get this or that.
    Sit back and marvel at what we have….stop trying to keep up with the joneses next door…

  12. oh fantastic,
    my parents have foxtel and i fell in love with 111 hits and bbc knowledge, i don’t care about the hd channels cause my parents have it and its ok i guess, but i got my mystar fixed and i think its actually an excellent piece of technology
    people need to be patient they will come on when austar is ready to upgrade

  13. God I hope Foxtel come to the bush. Austar need to offer the same or better package as Telstra or lose customers. I for one would now choose Foxtel in a flash.
    My Mum loves Malcolm in the Middle.

  14. to start with all these complaints against AUSTAR are completly understandable. One thing people should know is that the reason FOXTEL isnt up here is because AUSTAR has an agreement with the government to have the monopoly on the regional market. Once this agreement is up(very soon) its going to be a free for all. Foxtel is screaming to get into the regional market. Hopefully then AUSTAR will get their act together or face an exodus of its so many customers to Foxtel.

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