Australia is switching to digital TV and by 2013, all analog signals will be switched off.
Currently, free-to-air TV is broadcast in both analog and digital, but the analog signals will be gradually phased out, region by region, across Australia.
For the majority of people, making the switch to digital TV is a relatively straightforward and inexpensive exercise. However, the Australian Government understands that some people may need help to get ready for digital TV.
The Household Assistance Scheme (HAS) is available for people that receive a full-rate pension, which includes:
- The Disability Support Pension
- Age Pension
- Carer Payment
- DVA Service Pension
- DVA Income Support Supplement
A letter will be sent from Centrelink to full-rate pensioners about six months before each region is due to switchover. Eligible people will receive, free of charge, a high definition set-top box, installation of the set-top box, a demonstration of the equipment and 12 months warranty, service and technical support.
For more information about the HAS visit the Digital Ready website www.digitalready.gov.au.
The Bush BHAS01UR and Hills HD94003C are currently being supplied under the HAS scheme in Queensland. Both boxes are easy to use, scoring 69% or more in our tests and have OK tuners, which means they’ll handle most situations well.
We were impressed with the HD94003C’s remote control, but using the controls on the front can get you stuck in a menu and have to turn the box off to get out.
As the analog signal is gradually switched off forever around the country, consumers must decide whether to buy a TV with a digital tuner or opt for a considerably less expensive set-top box (STB).
All STBs on test can display all the free-to-air channels available in your part of the country, including the high-definition (HD) ones.
However, should you connect one to an analog TV, you'll most likely have to deal with a letterbox effect – black bars at the top and bottom of the screen – because most digital broadcasts are in 16:9 format, whereas analog TVs are 4:3.
Also, while you’ll be able to watch HD programs, most analog TVs can't reproduce the detail in a HD picture, so you'll be watching them in standard definition.