Australia commits AUD10MN more to free satellite service | Satellite | News | Rapid TV News
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The Australian Government is to provide an extra AUD10 million to the country’s Viewer Access Satellite Television (VAST) until 2021, on the back of a review into the service

Australia 4 Jan 2019VAST provides free-to-air TV to around 200,000 rural Australian households unable to receive a reliable terrestrial transmission, as well as serving some 30,000 travellers.

The extra AUD10 million will be added to more than AUD127 million in funding already committed to the service.

“Television is a vital entertainment and information service that all Australians should have access to. VAST ensures that regional Australians can receive reliable free-to-air television broadcasts so that we can all share and participate in cultural, education and social experiences,” said minister for regional services Bridget McKenzie.

“The service is also critical, is also essential, in keeping people up-to-date with the latest emergency information in times of natural disasters,” she added.

Government funding for the VAST commercial channels was due to end by 30 June 2020. However, a review by the Department of Communications and the Arts concluded satellite remains the most effective option to deliver free-to-air (FTA) TV to viewers unable to receive a terrestrial transmission.

“Satellite broadcasting provides clear advantages that other delivery technologies cannot, including Australia-wide coverage, reliable and uncongested reception, and access to a broadly metropolitan-comparable FTA TV service. There is overwhelming stakeholder support for continuing satellite delivery of FTA TV. Individual viewers were especially keen on this outcome, as most have no access to an alternative reliable terrestrial FTA TV service,” the final report said.

The review also found other technologies – such as the National Broadband Network, alternative satellite technologies, mobile networks and other IP-based options – would not provide the same level of service as that delivered by satellite.

A decline in advertising revenue for broadcasters and limited opportunities for commercial returns from VAST services “given the relatively small number of viewers and their wide geographic distribution” means broadcasters do require government support to continue the satellite delivered FTA TV service, said the report.

While ultimately some improvements could be made to the viewers’ experience and administrative aspects of the satellite service, including conditional access and the relevance of local content, overall VAST is described as “generally efficient.”