Thousands of households could be forced to pay a second time just for access to free-to-air television in a ‘best case’ scenario, Senator Simon Birmingham said today.
The revelation has come in questioning of Communications Minister Stephen Conroy and departmental officials as part of Senate Additional Estimates.
“Having already paid to install a ‘self help’ transmitter for analogue signals in their local area, about 155,000 households face having to pay again to obtain a digital free-to-air signal,” Senator Birmingham said today.
“Departmental officials have confirmed that once the analogue signal is switched off in Mildura – the first region to face switch-off – the same residents who paid for their transmitter to receive free-to-air TV will have to pay an estimated $660 for a satellite connection if they want to keep watching.
“That is, some taxpayers in regional Australia will pay twice just to watch the tawdry soapies and crass game shows the rest of us take for granted and which most wouldn’t want to pay for once.
“The price of this deal or no deal is just not right, is far from the sale of the century and could risk starting several family feuds.
“And the scenario could be worse elsewhere, and might worsen for those in Mildura.
“Only a $300 offset stops the slug to households from hitting $1000, but the Government says the satellite connection is just a trial service, with no assurance such services will be available beyond Mildura, or that the $300 offset will be available, or even that this Mildura service will be available beyond just one year.
“At worst, thousands of households could lose their ‘free to air’ TV under current plans and at best they’ll have had to pay twice just for the privilege of having access to free-to-air TV.
“The least Minister Conroy could do is lock in his answer to provide hope to hundreds of thousands of Australians who otherwise face being the biggest losers under his switch off plan.”