Ratepayers to fund digital
CAIRNS Regional Council has stepped in to help residents of South Mossman, Daintree Village and Cow Bay access digital channels when analogue is switched to digital on December 6, with ratepayers bearing the cost of tower upgrades.
Regional Broadcasting Australia – the entity that represents the major regional broadcasting networks – will not be digitally upgrading towers in these communities because they are lowly populated areas and some of them already have satellite dishes installed to access digital television.
The Federal Government has offered to subsidise households in these areas through the Satellite Subsidy Scheme, enabling satellite dishes to be installed for $700 per household with a householder contribution of $200 to $350, so everyone can access digital TV.
However, the Federal Government’s Digital Switchover Task Force has advised the community and council that if residents have poor reception with the analogue service, they will continue to have poor reception after the switch.
In an attempt to solve the problem, Cairns Regional Council will spend up to $430,000 over two years to digitally upgrade the towers for those who receive analogue signals.
But if Council’s plan goes ahead, it will mean residents are ineligible for the Satellite Subsidy Scheme.
Cairns Regional Council Mayor Val Schier said the areas have low population densities and RBA doesn’t feel there is a commercial benefit to funding transmission tower upgrades.
“A satellite option has been made available, but is considered to be unsuitable due to the mountainous landscape and heavy foliage in those areas,” she said.
“There would also be a cost burden on households, with no guarantee of good picture reception.
“So council will step in and fund the tower upgrades, over several stages, to allow residents to access the digital channels.
“Council has agreed to a $75,000 allocation in the 2011-12 Budget for upgrades at South Mossman, with further funds to be identified for Daintree Village and Alexandra Range.
“Analogue transmission will cease in the Cairns and Mossman area in December 2011 and in the Daintree area at a date yet to be determined, but before the end of 2013.”
Federal Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy Senator Stephen Conroy said if councils choose to upgrade their transmission towers to digital then householders would still need to buy and – where necessary – pay for the installation of a digital television or a set-top box to receive the service.
“Ratepayers will bear the ongoing costs of operation and maintenance of the terrestrial transmitters and tower,” Senator Conroy said.