Get with the program
Don’t leave making the switch to digital TV too late, writes Jennifer Dudley- Nicholson
MORE than one in 10 Australian households has yet to upgrade to digital television, even though analogue TV’S doomsday is only two years away.
And it is capital cities that are lagging behind the country’s regional areas when it comes to making the switch.
Regional Queensland became the latest and largest area to go digital- only last week, when analogue transmissions to more than 500,000 homes ended.
Some residents were caught out in the transition, causing a last- minute rush for digital settop boxes and new TVS in towns such as Cairns and Rockhampton.
But couch potatoes in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane could be hardest hit in the transition, with two out of the three cities under the national average.
The Federal Government’s latest Digital Tracker survey found 82 per cent of households had tuned in to digital television nationally by September, up from 75 per cent last year. But some areas are well behind. Regional Western Australia has the lowest digital rate at 66 per cent, with remote central and eastern Australia at 70 per cent.
Sydney and Brisbane come next at just 74 per cent and 79 per cent, respectively.
Both sit well behind national leaders Tasmania ( 90 per cent) and Darwin ( 89 per cent).
Broadcast Australia regional manager Trevor Byrnes says the metropolitan problem is not due to a lack of education or digital TV equipment but procrastination.
‘‘ It doesn’t matter how much you educate people there’ll always be a swarm on electrical stores by people leaving it to the last moment,’’ Byrnes says. ‘‘ It’s been well and truly advertised everywhere, so if your TV goes black, there’s no excuse.’’
Fusion Strategy media analyst Steve Allen says delayed switchovers for capital cities are likely to play a part; Canberra will not switch off until 2013.
‘‘ The reason it’s not progressing quickly in places like Sydney is that they’re last to switch over,’’ he says. ‘‘ They don’t have the panic or a marketing campaign that says in two years your old TV will not work.’’
Despite the urban late- movers, Allen says digital TV is increasing throughout Australia, thanks to a suite of fresh content. He says by airing popular shows that might not attract big ratings on their main channels, free- to- air networks are attracting a loyal following to digital stations.
‘‘ If anyone needed proof of the public’s appetite for digital TV, up to 25 per cent are watching content on the [ extra] digital freeto- air channels,’’ he says. ‘‘ If anything, the TV networks are selling their main channels short.’’
Pensioners and carers in digital- only areas who have yet to make the switch can apply to Centrelink to have their analogue set upgraded free, as part of a $ 376.5 million national scheme.
The Household Assistance Scheme, available six months before and one month after analogue goes in an area, provides for installation of a highdefinition digital set- top box, or a new antenna or cabling as required. The average cost of installation in the first two digitalonly areas was about $ 355.