The final stretch of the long-running digital TV switchover has begun for regional Victorian towns like Ballarat and Lorne, with the projected May 5 date for the shut-down of analog TV signals edging ever closer. The Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy Stephen Conroy today launched the final 50 day countdown in Ballarat.
According to Senator Conroy, the switchover date represents a milestone in TV broadcasting in Australia. "In another 50 days, the analog signals used to inform and entertain regional Victorian households since the 1960s will be switched off for good, and all free-to-air TV will be transmitted in digital only.
"By the end of 2010, 81 per cent of households across regional Victoria had converted to digital TV. This represented a huge increase on the 45 per cent of households that were digital ready in early 2009. As of February 2011, the number of digital ready households across regional Victoria was closer to nine out of ten."
Around 10 per cent of houses in regional Victoria are as yet unready for the digital switchover, but the government has several programs in place to assist both government allowance recipients and those in digital TV dead zones. Welfare recipients, like those eligible for the full Age Pension or Disability Support Pension, are able to receive a digital TV package free of charge through the government's Household Assistance Scheme. Any residents in areas unserviced by the new digital TV broadcasts are eligible for a $400 subsidy to access the Viewer Access Satellite Television (VAST) network.
A September 2010 media release from the DBCDE said 95 per cent of regional Victorian households were aware of the digital TV switchover date, while 76 per cent of Victorian households had already transitioned to digital TV-ready devices at that time.
Regional Victoria is the first large land area in Australia to transition to digital-only TV broadcasts. Some smaller areas are already entirely reliant on digital TV broadcasts. Other regions, including Queensland, will be switched over progressively until the final switchover date of 31 December 2013, which sees analog TV broadcasts simultaneously switched off in major cities and state capitals around Australia.