The Australian Government’s Digital Television Switchover program is well underway, with analog television services being progressively switched off and replaced by digital services by the end of 2013. Remote Indigenous communities will now receive 17 mainstream television channels, including NITV, plus open narrowcast channels (including ICTV.
The big change is that households in remote and regional communities will now receive TV direct from the VAST (Viewer Access Satellite Television) digital satellite by a Direct-To-Home (DTH) model with a satellite dish on each roof. The current Aurora satellite system will be switched off at the end of 2013.
For RIBS communities, this means the end of local community TV broadcasting. Despite IRCA’s efforts over several years, the government has ruled out any funding options for upgrading self-help TV retransmission facilities to digital or pooling of the subsidies towards upgrade costs. However, IRCA has continued to advocate strongly for the continuation of the community licensed TV service via digital broadcast to maintain local content programming and to enable viewing outside of houses or where DTH services are not functioning.
IRCA has also argued that the cost of ongoing maintenance of DTH equipment should not be the householder’s responsibility but be covered by the government. The Stevens Review also recommended this. As yet this is not resolved.
IRCA communicates regularly with Digital Switchover Taskforce, DBCDE and politicians to raise remote sector concerns about these issues as well as Satellite Subsidy Scheme (SSS) eligibility and rollout timetables. IRCA has distributed Information sheets about switchover and SSS to RIMOs and RIBS communities.
VAST Radio Conversion Project
The Proposed VAST Community Radio Conversion Project (RIMOs) is an IRCA proposal for funding from the Dept. of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy for the migration to VAST of those licensed Indigenous community radio services coordinated by Remote Indigenous Media Organisations (RIMOs). The project aims at replacing satellite receivers and necessary ancillary equipment to the same quality of service due to the transfer of RIMO coordinated radio services from the AURORA satellite to the VAST satellite.
With the Aurora satellite being switched off at end of 2013 and RIMO radio services being transferred to the VAST satellite, IRCA has been urging the need for replacement decoders for all RIBS radio services.
There will be a simulcasting period on Aurora and VAST to ensure service continuity during the deployment of the VAST decoders. IRCA will oversee ordering of equipment and arranging of delivery to RIMOs who will carry out the installations.
IRCA is currently collating information from RIMOs:
- To identify the range and quantity of replacement equipment needed;
- To identify the specifications of equipment needed to provide the same quality of service;
- To identify costs for installation of equipment either as part of scheduled maintenance visits or as specific purpose visits where the rollout schedule is not able to match scheduled maintenance visits.
Should funding be approved, the project will extend to consult and work with RIMOs on a rollout schedule during March to September 2013.