Satellite to rescue digital blackspots

satausTelevision viewers in regional blackspots just got a new year’s gift from the Rudd Government with an announcement that it will invest in a national satellite service to bring digital television to all of the country.

The major announcement addresses ongoing concerns that some regional viewers might be left behind in the transition from analogue to digital television.

The government will invest $40m annually to build and operate the satellite system, which it describes as an ongoing commitment. It promises to be in place before analogue is switched off in regional centres -the first of which begins by mid 2010 in Mildura / Sunraysia.

It has also reached an agreement with broadcasters to upgrade more than 100 regional analogue facilities.

The new service will effectively act as a replacement for viewers who cannot receive a signal from upgraded local broadcasters. But those viewers will need to install a satellite dish. The Government will provide a satellite conversion subsidy to ‘eligible households’ in relevant areas. It identifies 247,000 households as potentially accessing the new satellite system.

“All regional Australians will now receive the same television services as people in the cities,” said Minister Stephen Conroy.

“This is a fantastic outcome for people in regional Australia, many of whom have received limited television services for many years.

“This historic decision will dramatically improve the choice and quality of television services for regional Australia as we move towards digital switchover.”

The move promises to bring ABC2, ABC3, SBS TWO, GO!, 7TWO and ONE HD to all of Australia, and maintains local news via dedicated local news channels, something which regional broadcasters were rallying to keep last year.

Broadcasters will upgrade more than 100 existing regional analogue ‘self-help’ transmission facilities to operate in digital, while the Government will fully fund and build a new digital satellite broadcasting service for regional viewers who are unable to receive digital television from those facilities. Viewers who currently rely on ‘self-help’ sites that will be upgraded by broadcasters under this agreement will need to install a high definition set-top-box to access a full suite of digital television channels.

Any regional households not able to receive digital television from the upgraded ‘self-help’ sites will be served by the new satellite.

Senator Conroy said that the Government will be writing to ‘self-help’ transmission licensees detailing the new measures as well as providing further information to local communities.

The Government is currently consulting with broadcasters to identify the list of ‘self-help’ sites to be upgraded to digital for announcement in the first half of 2010.

26 Comments:

  1. hi all, i live in the wheatbelt of wa and realy the only way to get tv reception wer i live, is with a satellite, a decoder and a arora smart card.
    Now with my location they will let me veiw win and gwn and of corse abc and sbs from seveal states, but if you live in a area wer they think you can get analoge tv, you cant get win or gwn.
    As far as i know it is a digital reception anywase , so why cant they just broadcast the new digital channels through the arora system?
    also even with this satellite setup i have i am not alowed to recive any perth chanels, ie,9,10 ect.
    so i am guessing that IF we ever get the new digital chanels out hear, they will only be abc 2 and 3 ,sbs2 the versions of win and gwn.

  2. So does than mean people in the country will now receive 7, 9, 10, channel 31 and all the metro stations on their digital boxes? Not just the stupid regional affiliates???

  3. There are many of us in regional areas (i’m in WA) who can only get tv via their own satellite dishes and decoders (currently on the Optus C1 satellite). What does all this mean for us? Does this announcement mean we will get digital channels sooner if they will be on a satellite? I can’t seem to find any information on what we need to do to convert to digital tv.

    • Generally speaking I find these sorts of technical announcements raise more questions than they answer. You should ask Senator Conroy’s office or start hassling your local member because this kind of detail isn’t readily available to people like me. Don’t expect any change anytime soon.

  4. If these channels are feed by the same Satellite that foxtel uses, does that mean that foxtel customers will be able to get all FTA channels via the IQ box?

  5. Exactly my thoughts, David. We don’t want a situation where a homestead in the middle of nowhere has better TV services than someone living in a 100,000 strong city. No terrestrial has come forward and made any announcement about their involvement, so I guess we just wait and see.

  6. SilverScriptz

    Kooralbyn (and parts of Scenic Rim) has an analogue tower but currently has no digital ‘feed’ / service – still.

    Therefore, you can send up ten satellites and still no digital channels will be received on our TVs. Is this correct?

    If you buy a dish though, will that fix it? Yes, but…

    How nice, but when living in a block of unit and having to deal with negative body corporates, is it possible that K. Rudd could look at subsidy / something(?) for a dish?

    Well, all would be fixed (as we revert back to the original problem…) by the council adapting the existing tower to accept digital signals for our TV receivers.

    However, our council said it won’t do anything until 2013. So we live on in a dinosaur age.

    Oh well, thanks for the thought.

    • Yes I sense a big backlash once the finer detail of this seeps through. If eligible people have to pay $300 and non-eligible are stuck with $600 I suspect the bush won’t be happy. If your local broadcaster only airs 7TWO and not ONE HD don’t expect to get ONE without forking out $600 for a dish on your roof. So the suggestion that all of Oz gets all these channels will prove rather misleading.

  7. There are some huge black spots in Newcastle that you cant get any form of reception (other than foxtel). Elermore Vale is one such place. Are these people going to be eligible?

  8. ” “All regional Australians will now receive the same television services as people in the cities,” said Minister Stephen Conroy.”…..yes Stephen this should also be a compulsory standard written in law that no new service is able to broadcast until it can provide service to all Australians simultaneously.

  9. It’s certainly good news for people living in regional WA, NT and Queensland, who have been missing out on Channel Ten programs for a long, long time.

  10. Stan 7:30 pm

    I think you misunderstand me, simply adding an extra detail from an extra source. You seem to be misrepresenting me, which is a skill that may get you a job at Minister Stephen Conroy’s office.

  11. William Walker

    I reckon that Kuttsywood’s proposal makes perfect sense. Imparja cannot survive on it’s own in it’s present format and it’s just invetiable that Imparja would be bought by a much larger TV station, likely WIN or PBL Media. Also if WIN and Prime (owner of GWN) could expand to WA from the east, there’s no reason why SC Ten couldn’t expand to WA. That way it would provide more equal services between the east and the west.

  12. Great news!!!!

    Could this mean that viewers who live in a poorly serviced market such as Spencer Gulf and Broken Hill where only 7 and 10 programs are shown, to get channel 9 and the multi channels even if there is a main transmitter on the ground not too far away?

    If so this is great for the people in poorly serviced areas. The GTS/BKN and Griffith areas are undeserved more so than remote areas as they can see a potential 3rd network for those areas whereas the monopoly regions including Win Sa miss out on digital multi channels.

  13. @Smacca: More like the end of Aurora. My idea is, quite simply, offer 1 affiliate per network in these remote areas, not the current east/west divide.

    It should start with Win being allowed to buy Imparja, as well as Southern Cross Central being able to expand into WA as the third commercial station (instead of the digital 10 joint venture between GWN and WIN) and converting their eastern satellite station from 7 to 10 affiliation, and Prime picking up the third eastern satellite service, as a 7 affiliate instead of a Imparja/SC Central joint venture 10 affiliate.

    Then, on the day digital switchover occurs, the Regional WA and Remote Eastern markets would officially aggregate, becoming “Freesat”, and it will be it’s own mega market (with submarkets in WA, NT, QLD, NSW, Vic/Tas/SA), with satellite and some terrestrial transmissions.

  14. This is win, win win. Win for all Aussies. Win for the gov’t who get to sell spectrum (potentially much sooner the 2013). Win for telcos who can purchase spectrum for data services.

    Great move Conroy. Just a shame the Christian lobby has you by the balls re: the filter.

  15. Simon Band (5:39pm),

    If you’re attempting to say that getting FTA television is some kind of human right, then maybe you’d like to shoot an email to the UN? I’m sure they’d love to hear from you [smirk].

  16. William Walker

    I’m very pleased with the news because it will be much easier for darwin to get ONE HD and GO! I am also pleased I got the chance to see those channels first hand while visiting realitives in Queensland. While i already get 7 TWO here in Darwin, things can only get better from now on. I’m fairly confident i will get to see those channels again soon over the coming months

  17. This is tremendous news. A specific channel for local news is a great idea and should work well for the multiple timezones the service will obviously cover.

    However, I am afraid that this will lead to tighter restrictions. I can’t imagine GWN and WIN allowing digital terrestrial viewers to turn to Freeview Satellite to access GO!, 7TWO and One when they won’t even be providing those channels on the ground (currently GWN and WIN don’t care if you use satellite or analog terrestrial to watch their channels as their market encompassed the entire state, but if an alternate satellite based service is there, then this could be the end of unrestricted Aurora in WA.)

  18. What about people who can’t receive their local digital tower, but instead have to rely on a tower much much further away, which results in an unreliable and choppy signal? Will we get a satellite? Or will they boost the signal of the local tower? Or will we get left out completely?

  19. An extra bit that was in the Oz piece on this that is probably important to mention:

    theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,,26555199-7582,00.html?from=public_rss

    “But any regional households not able to receive digital television from upgraded self-help sites will be served by the new satellite and will need to install a satellite dish.

    Eligible householders will secure a $300 subsidy to the $600 cost, leaving them with a $300 bill.

    Those not eligible will need to pay $600.”

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