Digital TV not-so-free-to-air for country Queenslanders as switchover looms

The Federal Government's plans to help senior citizens get ready for digital TV is being touted as a rort in waiting.
Thousands of Queenslanders could be forced to pay $500 or more to access free-to-air television under the switch to digital from the end of the year.
Some of the biggest costs will be felt by householders in remote areas that will not automatically be reached by a digital signal when analog television is switched off in regional Queensland in December, followed by the rest of the state by 2013.
Switch-over costs include at least $200-$300 to have direct-to-home satellite equipment installed, $270 for a decoder for each extra television set as well as installation costs.
The cost estimate is after Federal Government subsidies.
It comes amid ongoing debate about the Federal Government's $308 million digital set-top boxes for pensioners scheme, with the Opposition revealing yesterday $70 million of the funds would be spent on administering the program.
Master electricians have warned of insulation-style rorting as workers with little experience move in to the industry to take advantage of subsidies.
One regional Queensland installer, who asked not to be named, said he had turned down work under the scheme because the fee paid by government contractors to installers barely covered expenses such as petrol, which could involve a 200km round-trip.
"The pay per job is definitely not good enough for what you have to supply," he said.
Switching to digital will be costliest for regional Queenslanders who rely on "self-help" analog transmission towers that will not be converted to digital.
Homeowners in areas where the towers will not be converted will need to pay for the installation of satellite television equipment to watch digital television.
Barcoo Shire Mayor Bruce Scott said it would mean stumping up hundreds of dollars for satellite while the rest of Queensland faced only a minimal cost.
A spokesman for Senator Stephen Conroy said endorsed installers received training to identify safety issues.
He said the out-of-pocket cost in regional areas requiring satellite could be as low as $220 a home.