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Thursday, 24 June 2010
Page: 4253

Senator XENOPHON (10:34 AM) —I give my support to the Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Digital Television) Bill 2010 but I would like to put the government on notice about some concerns I have regarding its implementation. Television has become more than a form of entertainment. I note that the government has allocated some $400 for eligible households to subsidise the installation of equipment needed to receive a digital signal in black spots that cannot receive terrestrial digital reception.

I have concerns that this may not be enough to cover costs in regional and remote areas, including in my home state of South Australia—although I acknowledge that the government has included increased subsidies for pensioners and other low-income groups. However, I encourage the government to monitor the subsidy as closely as possible. There is some uncertainty about which areas will need satellite equipment and I call on the government to make sure the subsidy is appropriately scrutinised.

I am also concerned that some people may not realise that they are living in a black spot and need satellite equipment to receive the digital signal until it is too late because digital and analog signals are not being broadcast simultaneously in black spot areas. There is also the issue of households that may not receive all the available channels despite having satellite reception. While I support the bill, I call on the government to act quickly if and when problems arise, and I seek their undertakings on this.

Television has become an important tool of communication in modern Australian society, and families and individuals should not be excluded from easy access to this tool of communication simply because of where they live. I believe the switchover to digital is a good thing and will open up a whole range of broadcasting opportunities. I acknowledge that there are some concerns about how the government has decided to deal with this problem; however, at this stage I believe it is important to begin implementing the new system and ensuring appropriate safeguards are in place. I believe digital broadcasting is the future but as we move into the future we must make sure that we do not leave some people in the past.