Under the Broadcasting Service Act 1992, television viewers who do not have adequate reception of one or more terrestrial digital commercial television broadcasting services should be able to access satellite television services via VAST.
The legislation establishes three categories of viewers with respect to VAST eligibility:
- Viewers in remote licence areas and individual households covered by an out-of-area authorisation (including persons currently receiving satellite television via Aurora);
- Viewers in parts of regional Australia that are recognised areas of poor terrestrial digital television reception; and
- Viewers in the rest of Australia, in areas generally having good terrestrial digital television reception who do not have adequate reception of all applicable terrestrial digital commercial television services at their individual location.
While viewers in the first two categories are automatically eligible for VAST services, those in the third category must apply for access on a case-by-case basis. In general, VAST services will not be available to viewers outside of remote licence areas until six months before digital switchover in their area. This is because, even though terrestrial digital services may not currently be available in the area, it is still possible that broadcasters will extend such services to that area before switchover. Information on how to apply is available.
These principles are established in Part 9C of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992, as well as in the conditional access schemes registered for the VAST licence areas. Copies of the schemes are available.
Viewers in regional and metropolitan licence areas who are unable to receive adequate reception of both analog and digital terrestrial services can apply at any time to a relevant remote commercial broadcaster (Imparja and Southern Cross Media for Eastern Australia) and the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) for permission to receive that broadcaster’s services ‘out-of-area’ by satellite. This permission can be granted at any time and is not linked to the switchover date for the viewer’s licence area. Viewers who obtain such permission can then apply to access the VAST service immediately.
Viewers should be aware that a successful application to obtain ‘out-of-area’ services does not entitle the applicant to early access to either the Household Assistance Scheme or the Satellite Subsidy Scheme, regardless of the applicant’s potential eligibility for these assistance schemes whenever they may officially open in the area.
Any viewer can also access the ABC and SBS on the VAST service at any time. They do this by applying through mySwitch and ticking the box for ABC and SBS, rather than the full suite of services (which includes the commercial services).
What may the ACMA investigate?
The legislation permits the ACMA to investigate complaints involving the following types of difficulties in accessing VAST services:
- Where a viewer has made a valid application for access to VAST and:
- Is denied access to VAST upon application;
- Has existing access to VAST revoked; or
- Waited for more than 15 business days for their application to be dealt with; or
- Where viewers who are eligible for VAST access have concerns regarding the process of having their access to VAST activated.
Ready to make a complaint?
Before making a complaint, please consult information on how to access VAST services on the Digital Switchover Taskforce website at www.digitalready.gov.au/what-is-the-switch/digital-tv/viewer-access-satellite-television, maintained by the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy. This page, which is part of the mySwitch website, contains information and instructions on how to apply for access to VAST services.
Please note that you must have applied for VAST access via the online form at mySwitch, and allow the broadcasters 15 business days before lodging a complaint with the ACMA.
The administrator of the schemes, RBA Holdings Pty Ltd, may be contacted at email@example.com or on 1300 993 376.
For more information on digital switchover, including access to satellite television, call the Digital Ready Information Line on 1800 20 10 13.
If you decide to complain, please contact us with as much of the following information as possible:
- Your name
- Your contact information (email, telephone and postal mail)
- The address at which VAST services were requested; if a street address is not available, please provide the latitude and longitude
- The date on which you made an application for VAST services, via the online form at mySwitch
- A copy of your application if available
- The kind of reception equipment you own (for example, external antenna or satellite dish)
- The nature of your complaint
- Correspondence between you and the scheme administrator, if available.
The best way to lodge a complaint with us is to provide this information via email at the address below. However, you may also contact us via post or fax.
Please note that the information provided in your complaint will be provided to the commercial television broadcasters, to enable the processing of your complaint.
The Satellite TV Complaints Manager
Australian Communications and Media Authority
PO Box 78 Belconnen ACT 2616
Fax: (02) 6219 5347
How does the ACMA deal with complaints?
The ACMA will investigate all complaints according to legislative and administrative decision-making requirements unless there are grounds to consider that the complaint is either frivolous, vexatious or not having been made in good faith. In investigating complaints the ACMA may collect evidence from the scheme administrator (RBA) and may also need to contact the complainant for additional information and evidence.
In cases where the ACMA finds that the RBA has failed to deal with an application for a reception certificate with 15 business days, the ACMA may determine that a reception certificate is taken to have been issued to the complainant. In cases where an application for VAST access has been refused or revoked, the ACMA will issue a notice to RBA inviting them to make a submission about whether the complainant has adequate reception. Unless RBA provides evidence that satisfies the ACMA that the complainant does have adequate reception, the ACMA will presume that they do not. Where the complainant is found to not have adequate reception the ACMA may then direct RBA to issue a reception certificate.
The ACMA will inform the complainant of the results of its investigation.