10 Jun 2011

Digital TV switch dates finalised

7:22 pm on 10 June 2011

The Government has signalled the final dates for the national switch to digital television, with Hawke's Bay and the West Coast the first areas to make the change.

Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman says the change will occur in four stages, starting September 2012, and should be completed by the start of December 2013.

Dr Coleman says nearly eight out of 10 New Zealanders are already watching digital television, either through Freeview, Sky or TelstraClear.

He says other viewers do not need to buy a new television to go digital, but may need to buy a set-top box and possibly a new aerial or satellite dish, depending on what equipment they have and where they live.

A budgeting group is concerned for those who cannot afford pay television or a set-top box.

About 20% of homes do not currently have digital television. The cost of a Freeview set-top box is about $100.

Federation of Family Budgeting Services chief executive Raewyn Fox says that may be too expensive for some people to afford although because of the timeframe involved, many families will be able to save the money for a set-top box over time.

Australia announced a $308 million subsidy scheme last month that will see the government pay for the installation and supply of digital set-top boxes for pensioners.

Dr Coleman says a similar scheme may be implemented here but he is not yet sure of the details.