The Government's $308.8m digital TV package explained

A break-down of the costs and eligibility for the $308m digital TV assistance package in the 2011 Federal Budget

Digital TV switchover Household Assistance Scheme

The Federal Government's recently-announced $308.8 million funding for the Digital TV Switchover Household Assistance Scheme includes the cost of digital TV set top boxes, installation (including possible antenna replacement), education and ongoing technical support for eligible recipients.

According to communications minister, Stephen Conroy, the Household Assistance Scheme aims to ensure that pensioners have equal access to digital TV services no matter where they live. "For most people, making the switch to digital television is straightforward and inexpensive. However, the Government recognises that some Australians, particularly the elderly, people with disabilities and their carers, may require assistance to switch to digital TV.

"The HAS, at no cost to eligible households, supplies a high-definition set-top box, installs it on the person's existing analog TV and demonstrates how to use the equipment," Senator Conroy said.

According to the Digital Switchover Household Assistance Scheme guidelines, the Scheme's aim is to assist those who are "most likely to have significant difficulties" switching over to digital TV from the existing analog TV system. Not everyone is eligible, to ensure the Government's money is spent as wisely as possible.

Eligibility: who can get assistance?

The digital TV switchover Household Assistance Scheme (HAS) will not be available to all Australians. Only citizens that are eligible for and receive the maximum rate of the Age Pension, Disability Support Pension, Carer Payment or Veteran's Pension and supplement will be eligible for the scheme.

These individuals must already own a functioning TV, but must not have already converted to digital TV — whether by buying a digital-ready LCD or plasma TV, or digital TV set-top box. Anyone with a borrowed digital-ready TV or set top box is ineligible for the scheme, and can only apply for the HAS once the borrowed item has been returned to its owner. Anyone without a functioning TV is ineligible for the HAS.

If anyone otherwise eligible for the scheme already has a TV or digital TV set top box that they own, they are ineligible for any assistance.

Every eligible individual can receive assistance from the scheme, except where there are two individuals living together in a couple-like relationship — in this case, when one citizen has received assistance the other is deemed to have received assistance as well.

Any citizens living in group housing — such as a nursing home or disability group house — are eligible for assistance, if they own their own TV. TVs belonging to the facilities in which they live will not be upgraded, and neither will antenna systems.

Any eligible individuals renting or living in a property they do not own are entitled to receive a set top box and installation, but no external antenna work. If the individual lives in an area only covered by satellite-based digital TV transmission, an external satellite receiver will be installed after written consent from the property's owner.

The HAS also runs alongside the Satellite Subsidy Scheme, and will allow eligible individuals in regional areas to have access to digital TV through a subsidy for the installation of VAST (Viewer Access Satellite Television) services.

Any individual deemed eligible will have to sign a declaration stating that they do not have access to digital TV, before the scheme delivers assistance. The Digital Switchover Taskforce and Centrelink, which administers the scheme, are able to make enquiries to ensure this declaration is true and correct.

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Campbell Simpson

Campbell Simpson

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