The switch to digital television

Anastasia Vesperman
Your old television might soon not work anymore. Those with old televisions might need to add a set-top box. But the new digital format is an improvement. It offers better quality pictures and sound, plus new channels to watch. The Australian government might provide you with some help to switch to digital television.
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Anastasia Vesperman on 02/05/2011
A Samsung LCD television with a picture of a desert and mountains on the screen
Samsung LCD TV

By 2013 all television will be digital

It’s been a long time coming, but by the year 2013, all Australian free-to-air television broadcasts will be switched from analog to digital. Analog broadcasts will be switched off in most of regional Victoria this week. Everyone will need a set-top box or a television with a digital tuner before the switch if they want to continue to watch free-to-air television.

Digital television has many benefits, including higher resolution and clarity, better quality sound, captions, and more broadcasting channels.

Extra information

Because the data sent over a digital channel is compressed, one high-definition (HD) channel can have extra visual information and data compared to an analog channel. Networks can also broadcast several standard-definition (SD) channels with extra data streams in the same bandwidth previously taken up by one analogue channel.

The exact features you can access on your television depend on both the information being sent by the networks and the features of your television’s tuner or set top box. You also obviously need a new high-definition television to be able to watch HD channels. You need at least a 720p model. 720 stands for the horizontal scan lines, while the letter p stands for progressive scan, which reduces flicker.

A sharper picture

HD channels send extra visual information, offering a sharper picture with more detail. If you have an HD TV, you can view the image at a higher resolution than on a standard definition set. Essentially, the image will be less blocky, and you will be able to sit closer to the television and still get a good picture, which is a boon for people who have poor eyesight.

All digital channels also contain audio streams of a higher quality than you get with analog channels. Additionally, multiple language streams can be included in the same broadcast. This improved audio fidelity will make listening to the TV much easier for people with impaired hearing.

Closed captions

Closed-captioning information is also typically added to the broadcast stream. It can be turned on and off at will via your television or set top box remote control. It is excellent for households which contain people with a hearing impairment who want to watch alongside people who do not.

With digital broadcasts, you either receive a perfect picture or no picture at all. The fuzziness you might get from a low-signal analog broadcasts does not occur with digital broadcasts – it is all or nothing. As long as you can get a sufficient signal your viewing quality will be improved with digital broadcasting.

Straightforward and inexpensive

Areas of regional Victoria will switch off their analog TV signals on Thursday May 5. There is a map showing affected areas on the Digital TV Switchover website (opens new window).

The Federal Government says that for the vast majority of people, making the switch to digital TV will be a relatively straightforward and inexpensive exercise. But they do recognise that some Australians, including older people and people with a disability might require assistance to switchover to digital TV. It is these people that are also most at risk of getting inappropriate devices for their needs, or of being scammed by people pretending to be government contractors.

In-home assistance

The Federal Government is providing in-home assistance to eligible households in selected areas. At no cost to eligible households, The Household Assistance Program (opens new window) will supply, install and demonstrate a set-top box. The box has been chosen to meet the needs of people who are elderly or have a disability. The program also includes any necessary cabling and antenna work.


For more information about digital broadcasting and getting ready for the switch, visit the Federal Government’s Digital TV Switchover website (opens new window)

Readers comments (2)

I am one of the people hoping to get a free/low cost set top box.

My old TV is fine for the small useage of it. I find the radio has better programs than a lot of the TV.

Anyway just wondering my neighbours tell me that that have had to get a whole new arial for our area.

Does that mean I will need to buy an arial even with the set top box ? They had to pay $600 for the arial.

Anyone know ?

Hey Wheelie, if you aerial is relatively new, your certainly should not need to get a new one.

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