People in metropolitan and regional areas of Australia are still relying on analog signals to watch TV even as the government begins switching off the older technology in favour of digital-only broadcasts.
June 30 is first day digital-only signals will be broadcast in an area of Australia – the Mildura/Sunraysia region on the NSW-Victoria border.
The Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, said the switch to digital-only television in Mildura/Sunraysia is an historic day for Australia.
"Representatives of the Digital Switchover Taskforce have been out in force in Mildura/Sunraysia over the last few weeks to ensure that all possible help is given to the local community," Conroy said.
Digital switchover liaison officer, Kellie Boyce, said more than 2500 households have been helped to convert to digital TV under the government's Household Assistance Scheme.
With analog being cut off in regional areas first, some households - estimated to be 1 or 2 per cent by the government – will not be ready for the handover and lose signals as a result.
A NSW Central Coast resident told TechWorld analog is still used where the channel reception is not good enough in digital.
“Some channels like Nine and Ten do not display well in digital so we watch them in analog. In fact, most of the time those digital channels do not display at all due to the poor signal quality. Other digital channels like ABC, SBS and Seven generally work well.”
The person said digital also tends to be more sensitive to adverse weather conditions – if there is high wind or a storm the analog channels are viewable whereas the digital display is affected more significantly.
“We know we don’t have the best reception, but if the government is going to remove the option of viewing TV with analog I hope it helps people get all the channels in digital first.”
Another person, commenting on a News.com.au digital TV report, said an antenna installer advised “everyone to stick to analogue or get cable TV instead because digital will never work here unless a new transmitter tower is built”.
Continuing installation of digital broadcast transmitters and Viewer Access Satellite Television (VAST) mean regional households have options to avoid black spots.
VAST is a government-funded satellite service which provides access to the digital TV channels available in capital cities, including multi-channels like ABC2, ABC3, SBSTwo, 7Two, Go! and OneHD.
It will also broadcast the new ABC 24 hour news channel when it is launched later this year, in addition to a dedicated local news channel, according to the department.
Conroy said the government is committed to improving digital television services in all parts of Australia with the digital switch-over scheduled for completion on December 31, 2013.
The next analog switch off will be in regional South Australia and Broken Hill on December 15, 2010.
People not ready for the analog switch off should contact the Digital Switchover Taskforce, Conroy said.