Regional QLD to go digital by December

The Government has annoucned the digital switchover dat for regional Queensland with the analog signal to be switched off by 6 December 2011

The Federal Government has announced the digital switchover date for regional Queensland, with the switch to digital-only television to occur on the 6 December this year.

Communications minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, said 506,000 households in regional Queensland across the Wide Bay, Capricornia, Darling Downs, Central Coast and Whitsundays, North Queensland and Far North Queensland switchover regions would be the first in the state to switch to digital only free-to-air television.

"More than four out of five households in regional Queensland have already converted to digital TV, according to the latest Digital Tracker survey to the end of March 2011," Conroy said in a statement.

"Those households yet to make the switch to digital now have a deadline for when their analog TV signals will be switched off for good."

According to Conroy, broadcasters are rolling out new digital TV transmitters in the leadup to the switchover to improve the quality of digital TV reception throughout the switchover regions.

"This includes the upgrading of analog ‘self help’ transmitters to digital in several locations, and the installation of new ‘gap filler’ transmitters in other areas to provide better reception."

For households without adequate reception of terrestrial digital TV services in their area six months before the switchover on the 6 June 2011, said Conroy, they will be able to access the government-funded View Access Satellite Television (VAST) service to receive the full suite of digital TV channels.

The Gillard Government has also launched free to air digital TV services by satellite to viewers in remote and regional Western Australia via the VAST service with an agreement between the government and broadcasters WIN and Prime (under joint venture WA Satsco) to provide the VAST service in the state.

Under the first stage of the agreement, Western Australian viewers will be able to receive the standard definition commercial channels from WIN, GWN and TEN, following which the second phase from 30 July, VAST will provide all nine standard definition and high definition commercial channels, including the digital-only channels such as ONE HD, Eleven, GO!, Gem, 7TWO and 7mate.

"From October 2012, the Government will provide a subsidy for approximately 32,000 households in Western Australia that currently rely on ‘self help’ towers for their TV to convert to the VAST satellite service," Conroy said.

"The Government is also providing funding to regional commercial broadcasters to roll out the full suite of digital TV channels by terrestrial broadcast throughout regional and remote Western Australia. "As a result, all households in regional and remote Western Australia will have access to the same number of digital TV channels as is available in Perth through the digital switchover program."

The Household Assistance Scheme will provide practical help to eligible households, in regional Queensland to make the switch to digital TV through the supply and installation of a high definition set top box at no cost to recipients. Eligible households include those where a person receives the maximum rate of the Age Pension, Disability Support Pension, Carer Payment, Department of Veterans’ Affairs Service Pension or Income Support Supplement.

As reported by Computerworld Australia, analog TV signals were permanently switched off in regional South Australia and Broken Hill at 21 transmitter sites across the Spencer Gulf, Riverland, Mount Gambier and south-east South Australia and Broken Hill areas at 9am on Wednesday 15 December.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation's (ABC) current analog setup at Ultimo in Sydney is also scheduled to undergo a major overhaul to meet the government’s digital switchover deadline by the end of 2013.

The revamp will include the replacement of the broadcaster's current master antenna television (MATV) system, which only distributes analog radio and television channels within the ABC complex at Ultimo. The number and quality of channels and services carried is also limited due to the system's age.

Follow Chloe Herrick on Twitter: @chloe_CW

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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