Will VAST Survive The Current Government Review?
29 July 2018
The Viewer Access Satellite Television (“VAST”) service is currently under review by the Australian Government’s Department of Communication and the Arts. Given there is a significant amount of funding provided by the Government to fund VAST, this review is addressing:
- The effectiveness of the VAST service, and
- Examining the long-term, efficient delivery of television services for areas that do not receive reliable terrestrial Free To Air (“FTA”) TV coverage
An issues paper has been released by the Department of Communication and the Arts, addressing the main concerns and calling on opinions from relevant industry participants.
What is VAST?
VAST was introduced in 2010 to enable people in remote and regional areas of Australia to receive access to FTA TV services.
Australia is a large and sparsely populated country. In addition, the terrain in some parts of the country is very hilly and mountainous. As a result, it is difficult and/or expensive to provide FTA TV services to all households via traditional terrestrial TV broadcast towers. The solution, which commenced on the 15 December 2010, is VAST!
The VAST service provides FTA TV services via satellite transmission. To date, it has been taken up by approximately 30,000 travelers and 200,000 households unable to receive terrestrial transmissions.
VAST systems have been installed in all states across the country. The image at the top of the page outlines the location of VAST viewers across Australia. These viewers use a satellite dish installed at their premises to receive channels delivered over Optus’s Aurora Digital satellite platform.
What Channels are Available on VAST?
VAST viewers are able to watch a combination of commercial and national TV services.
The following Joint Venture companies deliver Commercial FTA TV services across 3 regions of Australia:
- South Eastern Australia: Eastern Australia Satellite Broadcasters Pty Ltd, a joint venture between Southern Cross Austereo and Imparja Television.
- Northern Australia: Eastern Australia Satellite Broadcasters Pty Ltd.
- Western Australia: WA Satco Pty Ltd (WA Satco), a joint venture between WIN Network and Prime Media Group.
At the time of writing, the following commercial channels are available at the various regions of Australia:
|Region||Time Zone||Commercial Channels|
|South Eastern Australia||NSW||Southern Cross 7, 7mate, 7TWO, Imparja Nine, Gem, Go!, One, Ten, 11.|
|Northern Australia||QLD||Southern Cross 7, 7mate, 7TWO, Imparja Nine, Gem, Go!, One, Ten, 11.|
|Western Australia||WA||GWN7, 7Two, 7Mate, Racing.com, ishopTV, Nine, NineGo, NineGem, Win, 11, WinHD, One, Gold, TVSN.|
All standard and high definition digital national TV services are provided. At the time of writing, this includes the following channels:
- ABC HD
- ABC2 (ABC Comedy and ABC KIDS)
- ABC ME
- ABC NEWS
- SBS HD
- Food Network
ABC and SBS also deliver radio services using the VAST service. In addition, advertising and news services may differ across locations.
The team at Install My Antenna can provide further information on programming content and TV guides for all VAST services in your area.
How do I get VAST?
Access to VAST is limited to locations unable to receive local television service via a reasonable TV antenna installation, and travellers (e.g. caravans and motorhomes). In part, this is due to licencing agreements with local broadcasters. Simply speaking, if VAST administrators assess that you should be able to receive TV via an antenna on a reasonable mast installation, you will not be permitted access to VAST. This generally rules out most residences in capital city metropolitan areas.
To attain VAST approval, an application must be submitted to VAST administration. Once the application has been submitted, they will determine whether you are eligible to receive the service.
The team at Install My Antenna can assist with determining if you may be eligible to receive VAST. They can also assist with the submission of the application, complete with technical readings or opinions required to support your request for access.
What Equipment Do I Need To Receive VAST?
As a minimum, you will need:
- Satellite dish and LNB: the size of the satellite dish is dependent upon your location, building style and the available signal strength & quality.
- Coaxial cabling to all TV outlet locations: cabling from the satellite dish to all TV outlet locations within the residence. In addition to the coaxial cable, you will also require splitters, taps and amplifiers, suitable for the relevant satellite frequencies.
- VAST approved satellite receiver: you need one receiver for each TV. Each receiver contains an in-built VAST smart card.
The team at Install My Antenna can discuss a range of options with you and assist you with determining the exact equipment required to meet your specific needs.
Do I Have to Pay Subscription Fees for VAST?
There is no upfront or ongoing subscription fee to use the VAST service. Apart from the cost to supply and install the equipment, the end user has no other expenses.
So Who Provides the Funding for VAST?
It is a combination of the TV networks and the Australian Government.
Advertising provides income for the TV networks. As this is not sufficient to support the entire infrastructure required for VAST, the Government has stepped in to provide assistance.
The Government has entered into long term contracts with the Commercial TV networks to provide additional funding. Over the last 10 years, the Australian Government has provided $117 million in funding to the commercial broadcasters to deliver their services on VAST. In addition, the Government also provides funding to the ABC and the SBS for VAST as part of their annual appropriations.
The current Government Review process is taking place, in part, to assist in making decision about the future of VAST in light of the current contracts with commercial broadcasters ending on 30 June 2020.
One main question the Review will seek to answer is this:
Is VAST still the most efficient method to distribute FTA TV services to regional Australia? Especially in light of technological advances, including Over The Top (“OTT”) TV services (like Netflix). The jury is out!
If you are having trouble with your TV Antenna Installation, or if you have any questions about VAST installation or requirements, call the team at Install My Antenna on 1300 800 123 today! Alternatively, for more information about VAST, check out the ACMA website.
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