‘ Dire straits’ for dig­i­tal TV

Townsville Bulletin - - Inside Today - by Tony Rag­gatt tony. rag­gatt@ townsville­bul­letin. com. au

THE north-west Queens­land towns of Rich­mond and McKin­lay have called for bet­ter Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment sup­port in the tran­si­tion to dig­i­tal tele­vi­sion.

The towns have been given t h r e e wee k s t o d e c i d e o n whether to in­vest $ 250,000 each on ma­jor equip­ment up­grades or rely on com­mon­wealth sup­port pro­grams for in­di­vid­u­als.

There is also concern that with­out ma­jor up­grades, res­i­dents will be re­stricted to one tele­vi­sion and that busi­nesses such as mo­tels and car­a­van parks will be dis­ad­van­taged.

‘‘ We fear peo­ple are go­ing to start by­pass­ing Rich­mond and Ju­lia Creek,’’ McKin­lay Mayor Paul Wood­house said yes­ter­day. ‘‘ We are in dire straits.’’ Aus­tralia is mov­ing to dig­i­tal broad­casts with ana­logue sig­nals due to be turned off in 2013.

The gov­ern­ment has ven­tures with pri­vate broad­cast­ers to pro­vide ser­vices, how­ever, pro­vi­sion of re-broad­cast­ing fa­cil­i­ties for com­mu­ni­ties of less than 5 0 0 h o u s e h o l d s r e m a i n s un­clear.

De­vel­op­ment body Mount Isa to Townsville Eco­nomic Zone has sup­ported two of its mem­ber coun­cils, McKin­lay and Rich­mond.

‘‘( Zone) mem­bers sup­ported both McKin­lay and Rich­mond Shires in their call for the Com­mon­wealth to bet­ter sup­port the tran­si­tion to dig­i­tal TV in small com­mu­ni­ties and to at least pro­vide coun­cils with more time to as­sess other and pos­si­bly cheaper op­tions to re­broad­cast than those cur­rently be­ing di­rected by the Com­mon­wealth Gov­ern­ment,’’ the or­gan- isa­tion said in a state­ment.

A spokes­woman for Min­is­ter f o r B r o a d b a n d , C o mmuni - cations and the Dig­i­tal Econ­omy Sen­a­tor Stephen Con­roy said the gov­ern­ment was aware of the con­cerns of some coun­cils and was en­gag­ing with them.

She said a dead­line of Fe­bru­ary 28, which had been set on de­ci­sions about how com­mu­ni­ties could best de­cide their op­tions, had been de­ferred in­def­i­nitely.

‘‘ The gov­ern­ment is com­mit­ted to en­sur­ing that no Aus­tralian will lose ac­cess to tele­vi­sion as a re­sult of dig­i­tal b r o a d c a s t i ng, ’ ’ t he s p o kes - woman said.

‘‘ A cen­tral fea­ture of the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment’s pro­gram is bring­ing equal tele­vi­sion ser­vice to peo­ple in re­gional and re­mote Aus­tralia.

‘‘( We are) com­mit­ted to work­ing with com­mu­ni­ties to de­liver the best out­come ( for them).’’

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