The Australian government will be pouring $376 million of the national budget into the switch to digital TV, as revealed in the budget announcement earlier this week. Officials from the Department for Broadband, Communications, and the Digital Economy (DBCDE) said they wanted to make the move as seamless as possible for everyone.
Analogue signals have already been switched off in some regions ahead of schedule, even as spectrum sales are expected to continue for a few more years. The government has long supported programs designed to make the transition easier, especially for less affluent communities. Part of this involves identifying and reaching “problem areas” where there digital reception is low.
The DBCDE confirmed the budget in a public announcement May 10th, saying a large part of it would be spent on providing continued service to Australians as they make the switch from analogue to digital TV. This includes installation programs for the elderly, where they will be provided with digital set-top boxes by third-party providers.
The budget will also cover the provision and improvement of “on-the-ground community engagement,” which will encourage the participation of individuals and businesses. This will be done through a series of advertising campaigns, according to an article by iTech Report.
Also on the drawing boards is Digital Ready (digitalready.gov.au), a website dedicated to informing the public about the switch to digital TV. It explains how digital TV works, how and when they can do the switch, and where they can get government assistance. There are also video tutorials on installing devices and regular updates on various areas.
Funding will also be extended to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), who will identify areas with problematic or no access to digital services. They will also help plan and license the services, ensure the availability of the digital spectrum, monitor the performance of receivers, and look into possible obstacles to the take-up. ACMA is working with the Minister to make sure the timetable for the switch is accurate, taking all technical and practical factors into account.
Digital terrestrial TV first came to Australia in 2001 in its five major cities: Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, and Brisbane. Digital services are now available in most areas—about 96% of the population can access at least some types of the service, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade—although parts of Central Australia and Western Australia are among the notable exceptions. Plans to replace analogue transmissions began in 2010 and are expected to finish by 2013.