IT is now only five months until the analog television signal is permanently switched off in Tenterfield.
If local statistics follow statewide trends, up to 30 per cent of households will find themselves sitting in front of a blank television screen come November 27.
Endorsed antenna installer Greg Williamson said for many households, the need to tackle their free-to-air digital TV needs increases in priority as the switchover date approaches, and is set to peak once the date arrives.
Help is at hand for many families under various government assistance schemes. The Digital Switchover Household Assistance Scheme (HAS), administered by CentreLink, offers a free installation to eligible older Australians, veterans and people with disabilities, or their carers.
“They can get everything they need for good reception, although if they are in a rental property they will have to see the landlord about the antenna,” Mr Williamson said.
He stressed, however, that installations under HAS must be applied for through CentreLink. Eligible households should already have received a letter advising them of the scheme, although more information is available by calling 1800 556 443.
Those unable to receive a terrestrial digital signal may be eligible for a subsidised satellite service under the Satellite Subsidy Scheme. Anyone with an existing Aurora satellite service needs to contact a service provider like Mr Williamson to upgrade their system to a digital VAST (Viewer Access Satellite Television).
While also doing private work, Mr Williamson is a contractor for SkyBridge who is handling HAS installations on behalf of the government. After just a week into his HAS work, he has completed eight installations, with so far another 28 ahead of him.
In his work around Tenterfield, Mr Williamson has found that some existing antennas are capable of transmitting an adequate digital signal once a set-top box or digital TV are installed , but many are not.
“It depends on the age and quality of the existing antenna, and its location,” he said.
“In some households, it may be just a cable that connects up a VCR (video recording device) that’s causing pixilation.”
Mr Williamson also warns that fixing the TV cable after digging through it in the garden is no longer a case of twisting the wires back together, as it was with an analog service. Now it means calling in a technician like himself, although sometimes only a patch is necessary.
Mr Williamson said most households in the town district should be capable of receiving good free-to-air digital TV if they have a reasonable line of site to the transmission tower on Mt Mackenzie, and trees shouldn’t interfere with the system.
Mr Williamson is encouraging anyone needing help to secure a digital service to opt in before the switchover date so they can get in the queue. Those taking advantage of any of the government assistance schemes, however, must go through the relevant authority.