Free- to- air TV could be costly

Townsville Bulletin - - Inside Today - by Alexis Gill­ham alexis. gill­ham@ townsville­bul­letin. com. au

RES­I­DENTS i n Kelso, Mount Ell i ot , Paluma and Mag­netic Is­land will have to pay at least $ 500 to be able to watch tele­vi­sion af­ter the ana­logue sig­nal is turned off this year.

The is­sue was raised at coun­cil’s Life­style and Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment meet­ing yes­ter­day.

Coun­cil’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive on the board of the Mount Isa Townsville Eco­nomic Zone, Cr Tony Parsons said some peo­ple in the four Townsville black spot ar­eas cur­rently had TVs ser­viced by tow­ers that re-broad­cast an ana­logue ser­vice only.

He said the only way peo­ple in these ar­eas could watch the in­com­ing dig­i­tal sig­nal was through pay­ing $ 500 for a decoder and satel­lite equip­ment.

Al­ter­na­tively Cr Parsons said it would cost Townsville at least $ 1 mil­lion to up­grade the four tow­ers, based on the quote given to the McKin­lay Shire in north-west Queens­land for the same ser­vice.

‘‘ The gov­ern­ment quote to the McKin­lay Shire is $ 250,000 for the

Tony Parsons up­grade of t he t ower t o r ebroad­cast that dig­i­tal ser­vice, which in a com­mu­nity of 1100 peo­ple is like hold­ing a gun to their head,’’ Cr Parsons said.

‘‘ In the city a set-top box ( needed to re­ceive the dig­i­tal sig­nal) costs be­tween $ 40-50 and I’m more than happy for peo­ple to wear that cost.

‘‘ But what I’m not happy about is the cost of $ 500 per TV – that’s for the satel­lite and decoder needed to take the dig­i­tal sig­nal from the satel­lite – and peo­ple say this is free-to-air TV but it’s not freeto-air.

‘‘ If you have a sit­u­a­tion like

I have at home where there are five tele­vi­sions, you need five de­coders to get any TV sig­nal.’’

C o u n c i l ’ s C o m m u n i t y a n d Life­style Com­mit­tee chair­woman Cr Jenny Lane hit out at the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s changeover plans for not in­clud­ing fund­ing to up­grade ex­ist­ing ana­logue re­trans­mis­sion tow­ers in ar­eas with a poor sig­nal. In­stead res­i­dents in these broad­cast black spots will have to ap­ply for a $ 400 sub­sidy to­wards the cost of a sig­nalen­hanc­ing dish.

Cr Lane said coun­cils had been pro­vided with lit­tle de­tail and w e r e u n c l e a r o n h o w t h e changeover would af­fect dif­fer­ent ar­eas. ‘‘ In some of the black spot ar­eas peo­ple may be able to pick up sig­nals with a dig­i­tal TV and set-top box but oth­ers may not with­out a dish or re-trans­mis­sion tower. The cost to up­grade ex­ist­ing tow­ers should not be the re­spon­si­bil­ity of lo­cal coun­cils. We need more in­for­ma­tion, more fund­ing and more time.’’

C o u n c i l ’ s C o m m u n i t y a n d Life­style Com­mit­tee backed a rec­om­men­da­tion to con­tinue to lobby fed­eral min­is­ters and lo­cal MPs and also to write to res­i­dents in the af­fected ar­eas on the im­pli­ca­tions of the changeover.

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