Get with the pro­gram

Don’t leave mak­ing the switch to dig­i­tal TV too late, writes Jen­nifer Dud­ley- Nicholson

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Television -

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.

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