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Sky TV/TVNZ’s igloo left out of govt’s digital TV targeted assistance package

The government will spend $12 - 18 million over the next three years helping around 58,000 households deal with the switchover from analogue to digital TV. UPDATED with igloo comment.

Chris Keall
Tue, 24 Jan 2012

At the igloo launch on Dec 7: igloo general manager Chaz Savage , Sky TV chief executive John Fellet and TVNZ chief executive Rick Ellis. Sky TV owns 51% of Igloo, TVNZ 49%. At the launch, Mr Savage played his cards close to his chest over the government's targeted assistance programme, declining to see if igloo was angling to participate. He did say igloo set-top boxes will cost less than $200.

The government will spend $12 million to $18 million over the next three years helping around 58,000 households deal with the analogue TV switch-off, new broadcasting minister Craig Foss revealed today.

That equates to an average $206 to $310 per assisted household, if 58,000 are assisted.

Industry whispers suggested that set-top boxes for igloo, the pending low-cost Sky TV-TVNZ low-cost pay TV joint venture, would be eligible for targeted assistance funding under the scheme.

However, the scheme revealed today explicitly excludes pay TV providers Sky TV, TelstraClear (though its cable TV service) and the yet-to-launch igloo - essentially leaving Freeview as the only eligible digital TV platform.

Would have loved opportunity
"No surprises from my point of view," igloo chief executive Chaz Savage told NBR this afternoon. "[We] would have loved to have been given the opportunity to be involved. We think our product is superior to any DTT [digital terrestrial television] broadcaster, with more future-proof options around UFB [Ultrafast Broadband] but we expecting to receive a call in a hurry."

The targeted assistance package does not include a digital TV, but does include:

  • supplying, delivering and installing a set-top box if required;
  • supplying, delivering and installing an aerial or satellite dish, and cabling, if required;
  • training viewers in how to use the new equipment; and
  • an aftercare helpline to provide ongoing technical support for 12 months

Mr Foss said around 80% of New Zealanders were on digital TV today. The figure was expected to rise to 90% by May next year.

“However, the Government recognises that a small group of people could need financial, physical or technical help to switch over,” Mr Foss said in a statement.

“Our targeted assistance package is focused on those most likely to be in genuine need, and will directly help elderly people on fixed incomes and people with disabilities make the transition to digital television.”

To be eligible, people must be watching only analogue television and be either: ·       

  • 75 or over with a community services card; or
  •  Receiving an Invalid’s Benefit or a Veteran’s Pension; or
  • Former recipients of an Invalid’s Benefit or Veteran’s Pension who have converted to New Zealand Superannuation.

The relatively tight eligibility criteria put paid to the theory that it's better to hold off buying a MySky, MyFreeview or TelstraClear T-box on the grounds that the government would chip in to help any last minute buyers.

A Q&A is online here.

The digital TV switchover will be phased, starting with Hawke’s Bay and the West Coast in September this year. The rest of the country will switch over in three stages between April 2013 and November 2013 - by which point every household will have to be on Freeview, Sky TV, or another digital TV provider if it wants to receive a TV signal.

The government hopes to raise around $200 million by auctioning off free-up analogue spectrum (which is in the 700MHz band attractive for next-generation mobile phone networks).

Chris Keall
Tue, 24 Jan 2012
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Sky TV/TVNZ’s igloo left out of govt’s digital TV targeted assistance package