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Wednesday, 16 June 2010
Page: 5664


Ms RISHWORTH (5:18 PM) —I understand that Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy announced on 5 January 2010 that the government will fund a satellite service to deliver digital television to viewers in remote Australia and regional black spots. I am aware that $375.4 million over 12 years was provided in this budget to fund the satellite service, to fund ACMA to undertake the necessary planning work, and to provide a subsidy to viewers in communities reliant on self-help transmitters which are not upgraded to digital.

The satellite service will be available to any viewers who cannot access digital TV via terrestrial means. It is also great to hear that the new satellite service will carry all current free-to-air digital television channels—I know many people around the country will be very pleased about that—including the original three commercial and two national channels as well as the new digital services, such as ABC2, ABC3, SBS, 7TWO, GO! and One HD. This will finally bring to viewers in regional, rural and remote Australia the same number of channels as is available in the capital cities. As I understand it, the VAST service will also feature a dedicated local news channel, giving viewers access to their local news, which I know is very important to a lot of people around the country.

I also understand that the broadcasters have agreed to upgrade a substantial number of existing analog self-help retransmission facilities and that, where the broadcasters do not upgrade a self-help site or viewers are otherwise unable to access a broadcaster’s digital terrestrial signal, then viewers will have access to the new satellite in time for switchover. My question to the minister or the parliamentary secretary is this: can you explain why the government has decided to fund a satellite solution for reception black spots rather than continue to fund the community operated self-help transmission towers?