Do You Need a Set Top Box? Australia is Getting More Free to Air Channels

As you are aware we already have ABC1, SBS One, Seven, Nine, and Ten which have been broadcasting in digital spectrum since January 1, 2001. When digital television launched on 1 January 2001, the majority of households did not know of or were unable to buy a set top box in order to receive the signal. Households not already using digital televisions will need to purchase a set-top box (stb) in order to continue receiving a television signal. We also have ABC2, SBS Two and the sports channel One. Recently we started to receive Nine’s new entertainment channel Go!

If you are purchasing a new digital television or set top box, the Australian government has developed a scheme where labels are attached to digital equipment for sale in retail outlets. People who have not yet invested in a freeview television or set-top box, or signed up to a cable or satellite service, have until 2013 to ensure they can receive digital television signals and new digital channels coming up. Channel Seven has a yet an unnamed extra channel which is due to air later this year and the ABC will follow on December the 4th with ABC3 a channel dedicated to children’s TV. This will bring the total to 11 free-to-air channels.

The six free-to-air licensees Seven, Nine, Ten, WIN, Prime, Southern Cross and the two public broadcasters, ABC and SBS, introduced a common marketing platform, Freeview, last November, hoping to drive viewers to digital television before the analog signals are switched off in 2013.

To receive the best possible viewing experience delivered by high definition television programming, you will need either: a high definition set-top-box coupled with a high definition display device such as a television, monitor or projector,   or a high definition integrated digital television. Once you purchase either a digital television set top box or integrated digital television there is nothing more to pay. So far, only 45 percent of the population has switched over, either by connecting a digital set top box to the existing television or buying a new TV. Because the new channels are in the digital format, viewers that are not digital ready will not be able to receive them on their analogue TV.

While some of the content on the new digital channels is duplicated from the main channels to which they are tethered, there is a significant amount of new content, including critically acclaimed programs Beautiful People, Boy meets girl and The Wire on ABC2 and Vampire diaries, Curb Your Enthusiasm, New episodes of Survivor and Weeds on Go!

Ten has invested in a portfolio of sport on One, including AFL, swimming’s FINA world championships, motor sport, golf, baseball and triathlon, while SBS Two has shown the 2009 Tour de France and Ashes Series and will follow with the 2009-10 season UEFA champions League matches.

The government may give vouchers to television viewers who have not moved to digital television by the time the analogue broadcasting network is switched off in a few years, to help defray the cost of buying a digital set-top box. The switch to digital television has led thousands of people to throw out their tvs, in spite of the fact that older televisions can still receive a digital signal by adding a set-top box.

If viewers experience disruption to their viewing in this time of change, I recommend you access the set-up menu of their digital television or digital set-top-box and «rescan» using the automatic tuning function. This will give you all the up to date channels that are out there, and solve any problems you may have with existing channels. Happy digital viewing!

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