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Notice given 13 December 2010

353  Senator Ludlam: To ask the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy—With reference to the Digital Switchover Taskforce and the Satellite Subsidy Scheme which will help households that rely on analog-only self-help towers to make the transition to the Viewer Access Satellite Television (VAST) and, in particular, to the switchover process in remote Indigenous communities:

(1) Is it true that on or about 1 April 2010 the Minister wrote to remote Indigenous communities which run analog television (TV) self-help transmission facilities and mentioned that one of their options for converting to digital television was to set up a digital self-help TV transmission facility; if so, can a copy of that letter (redacted as necessary to protect privacy) be provided.

(2) What assistance could the department have provided those communities to assess the option of setting up their own digital self-help transmission facility.

(3) What kind of financial assistance and information has been provided to inform homes within remote communities to assess the option of converting to the new VAST satellite.

(4) What type of research has the department done on remote Indigenous communities in relation to the following:

(a) the average number of TV sets and recorder devices in homes which need to be converted to digital;

(b) the extent of insertion of local material into local self-help TV transmissions; and

(c) the extent to which only indoor TV set top aerials are needed for current terrestrial TV reception.

(5) (a) Can the Minister confirm that the per-home subsidy available to remote Indigenous homes to convert to the VAST satellite may vary from approximately $550 to $980; and (b) what was the nature of the consultations that took place with remote Indigenous community viewers to determine these figures.

(6) During the 2010-11 Budget estimates the department reported there was only one model of VAST set top box available at a cost of approximately $269, whereas the Minister said at the same time that an equivalent high definition terrestrial set top box costs approximately $80. Given that portable indoor aerials for terrestrial TV reception are less expensive than satellite dishes and mounts: Can the Minister confirm whether the total private and public subsidy cost of converting homes in remote Indigenous communities to digital via satellite is nearly always likely to be more expensive than converting by terrestrial means.

(7) Will new homes in remote Indigenous communities be faced with the full extra cost of VAST after the satellite subsidy period expires.

(8) Given that homes across the remote central and eastern remote areas of Australia will have access to the new VAST free-to-air satellite platform from 15 December 2010, and that remote Indigenous homes in Queensland will be invited to opt into the Government’s per home subsidy scheme to assist them to convert to satellite in April 2011, what is the Government doing to assist remote Indigenous communities to develop robust digital self-help facility designs and to compare the overall benefits of converting to digital via VAST satellite or digital self-help terrestrial means before these other key deadlines.