Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy has announced a landmark deal that will see digital TV made available to viewers in remote and regional parts of Australia not accessible by terrestrial digital television.
A joint venture company, Viewer Access Satellite Television (VAST), has been formed between Macquarie Southern Cross Media and Imparja Television to provide digital TV, in standard and high definition, via satellite to eligible viewers in the central and eastern states. Macquarie Southern Cross currently provides a Seven-affiliated television service to central and outback Australia, and Imparja provides a Nine Network affiliate to the same area.
VAST will provide access to programming from Seven, Nine and Ten networks as well as ABC and SBS. This will include access to new channels ABC2, ABC3, SBS2, 7TWO, GO! and ONE and a dedicated local news channel as well as ABC’s upcoming 24-hour news channel. Viewers in Queensland and Northern Territory will be able to view standard-definition channels via VAST in Brisbane time, while viewers in South Australia, Victoria, NSW and Tasmania will receive standard-definition channels in Sydney time. High-definition channels will be available across the entire coverage footprint in a single time zone.
Viewers in the Mildura/Sunraysia region that may lose access to television signals with the shutdown of local analogue television services on 30 June 2010, and not able to receive the equivalent local digital signals, will now be able to access the VAST service. VAST will also be available to eligible households in regional and capital city markets that are not able to receive terrestrial digital television.
Eligible households wishing to access VAST will receive a $400 subsidy from the Government. To access the VAST service, viewers will need to purchase a new satellite set top box with an access ‘smart card’, a satellite dish and cabling. Viewers currently accessing satellite free-to-air TV via Optus Aurora will be able to change over to the VAST service with the purchase of a new set top box.
The Government is currently in negotiation with the licencees of television stations in regional Western Australia – Prime and WIN – with a view to providing the same access to digital TV via satellite in WA.