Thursday, 17 September 2009
Grey Electorate: Digital Television
I bring to the House’s attention many of the inconsistencies and poor service levels surrounding free-to-air television throughout the electorate of Grey and the accompanying concerns and opportunities that come with the digital switchover. I have with me a petition from 389 concerned residents of the Copper Coast council area which, unfortunately, does not meet House guidelines for tabling, but the residents, predominantly from Moonta, request the government not turn off the analog signal until they have improved digital reception in the area. The townships of Moonta, Wallaroo and Kadina are not blessed with a strong analog signal, with some views of the town looking a little like a forest of TV antennae. So, if the people of Moonta are telling us they are not confident the new digital signal will adequately service them, you can take it as fact that reception is pretty poor.
The government’s self-appointed date for the digital switchover is bearing down on us—Mildura on 1 January next year and then country South Australia, including the Spencer Gulf telecast area, on 1 July. If the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Conroy, knows how he is going to fix the problems, he has not yet told the affected residents. There is an enormous amount of confusion and doubt. For instance, Moonta, the home of the concerned residents who have signed this petition, is on the border of the metropolitan signal and the Spencer Gulf footprint. Neither service is particular strong. It is important that any switchover provides a better service—not worse.
There are great variations across the seat of Grey, with free-to-air television being currently delivered on a range of platforms: analog, analog to black spot transmitter, satellite, satellite to black spot transmitter, and in some places digital. The signal originates in Adelaide, Port Pirie, Alice Springs and Mount Isa, with all the associated variations and distortions of local content and program focus. Major parts of my electorate receive just two commercial free-to-air networks. In this day and age this really is a disgrace. The digital switch-over offers an opportunity to bring these communities into the 21st century, and we need to know how the minister intends to complete that task. There is an enormous scope to get this switch-over wrong. If the government cannot meet its commitment to deliver the digital signal to all by the self-proclaimed dates, it should defer the switch-over until it can. For the 389 residents of Moonta and Wallaroo, I request that the House and the minister take consideration of this matter.