The Federal Government has partnered with regional broadcasters to ensure that viewers in remote and regional areas will have access to the same amount of channels as their capital city counterparts.
In a media release issued today, the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy announced that the Government will provide $34 million over four years to enable commercial broadcasters in regional South Australia, remote and regional Western Australia, and remote and central Australia to install the transmitters that will give viewers access to all digital TV channels via terrestrial broadcast:
“This is an historic outcome for regional Australia For decades, viewers in smaller TV licence areas have put up with having only two commercial TV channels, often missing out on some of the country’s most popular programming.
“True equalisation of TV services in Australia was long considered impossible; the Gillard Government is proud to have achieved the realisation of what has been a long-held dream for many people in regional and remote Australia as part of the digital switchover program.”
The Government promises to provide 50 per cent of capital and operational costs for the new transmitters until the end of the transition period from analogue television in 2013, with regional broadcasters meeting the remaining and ongoing costs.
Commercial channels will initially be offered in standard definition only, while the full suite of ABC and SBS channels – including high-definition channels ABC News 24 and SBS1 HD – will be offered.
Once the rollout of the digital TV channels is completed, if any viewer is still unable to access the channels via terrestrial broadcast then they can access the channels through the VAST platform, announced earlier this year.
Regional South Australia – comprising Loxton/Riverland, Mount Gambier/South East, Spencer Gulf and Broken Hill (NSW) markets – is due to lose all existing analogue signals on 15 December this year. Viewers in these markets can currently access ABC, SBS and local versions of all three commercial networks in digital but as yet none of the extra commercial channels, such as GO!, GEM, 7TWO, 7mate, One or the upcoming channel, 11 – although Southern Cross, covering Spencer Gulf and Broken Hill, has already been assigned broadcast capacity to start broadcasting additional channels after the analogue switch-off is completed in the area.
Commercial operators in Western Australia – Prime (GWN) and WIN – are only now rolling out the first stage of digital transmission, giving viewers access to GWN, WIN and the new Ten West, but today’s announcement will lead to a roll-out of the additional commercial channels.
Regional commercial broadcasters WIN, Prime, Southern Cross and Imparja will announce the rollout schedule for the new channels in coming days.