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City's date with TV revolution

Friday, 19th March, 2010

By Stefan Delatovic Sixteen digital television channels will be broadcast in Broken Hill when the analogue signal is switched off in December.

The Federal Member for Parkes, Sussan Ley, met Communications Minister Stephen Conroy's office yesterday to discuss the digital switchover. Locals had been vocal about their lack of digital television service in comparison to other areas, especially in light of the upcoming switch to digital.

A petition of Ms Ley's calling for equal service garnered widespread support from the community, and led to Senator Conroy announcing late last year that the 16 'Freeview' digital channels available to metropolitan areas would be made available everywhere. City Council wrote to Ms Ley after its last meeting, asking for clarification on when the channels would arrive and whether the city would receive High Definition broadcasts. Ms Ley took these concerns to Sen. Conroy's office yesterday, and said the meeting was "positive and encouraging".

She was told that the city would receive the 16 channels, including digital-only offerings One, 7Two and Go!, by the time of the December 15 switchover. The digital signal will be available for standard definition broadcast two months prior so the signal can be tested. High Definition broadcasts may be available by then, but require extra infrastructure to be built so may be a little late.

The core of the plan was a funding agreement between the Federal Government and broadcaster Macquarie Southern Cross Media, Ms Ley said, the result of six months of working together. It was a requirement of the deal that the broadcasters leave no-one with worse service than they now receive. Terrestrial customers will only need a digital set-top box. People using a satellite dish won't need a new one. People using a 'self-help tower' will receive a $400 subsidy. Satellite customers will, for the first time, have access to their nearest local news broadcasts.

Ms Ley said the people of Broken Hill had been heard. "The people of Broken Hill made it clear they wouldn't put up with a substandard service. We spoke up and on this occasion we were listened to," she said. "I think the noise made in Broken Hill - support of my petition, coverage in the media, and people contacting Senator Conroy - I think it all helped convince him."

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