In January 2010, the government announced an initiative to provide access to a suite of metropolitan-equivalent broadcasting services to people in remote areas and to viewers in terrestrial digital television ‘black spots’, who would not otherwise be able to receive commercial television broadcasting services when analog services are switched off in their licence area.
This satellite delivered service, the VAST service, provides commercial and national broadcasting services including multi-channels. It may also make provision for open narrowcasting and community broadcasting services to be carried. More information on VAST is available from the Digital Switchover Taskforce: www.digitalready.gov.au/what-is-the-switch/digital-tv/viewer-access-satellite-television.
If you live in an area where there is not adequate reception of the full range of free-to-air digital commercial services, you may be eligible for access to the satellite services provided on the new VAST satellite platform. If you cannot receive the national services (the ABC and SBS) free-to-air, you will also be able to access them on the VAST service.
There are three licence areas for VAST services: South Eastern Australia TV3, Northern Australia TV3 and Western Australia TV3.
The VAST service has been available in South Eastern Australia and Northern Australia since 15 December 2010. Viewers in remote licence areas are eligible to receive VAST services from that date. In general, VAST services will not be available to viewers outside of remote licence areas until six months before digital switchover in their area. However, viewers in receipt of ‘special permission’ from the ACMA to receive ‘out-of-area’ commercial television broadcasting services are automatically eligible to receive commercial VAST services since 15 December 2010. Viewers in ‘open access areas’ are also automatically eligible for VAST services.
In Western Australia, VAST is currently available in most remote areas. Viewers from Western Australia can check their eligibility to receive the VAST service on the mySwitch website.
How to apply for VAST
Anyone may apply for and be authorised to receive national broadcasting services (ABC, SBS) on VAST. However, specific rules and a conditional access scheme apply to viewers wanting access to commercial television broadcasting services via VAST.
- Viewers located in remote licence areas, ‘open access areas’, or in receipt of ‘special permission’ from the ACMA to receive ‘out-of-area’ commercial television broadcasting services are automatically eligible to receive commercial VAST services.
- Viewers in regional areas that are recognised black spots, including certain locations where council-run ‘self-help’ transmitters are not being converted to digital by the commercial broadcasters, are also automatically eligible to receive commercial VAST services.
- Viewers in metropolitan and other areas, which typically enjoy good reception of terrestrial digital television services, do not have an automatic right to receive commercial services via VAST. However, viewers who believe they do not have good reception of terrestrial digital commercial services may apply on a case-by-case basis for VAST.
To learn more about your coverage, visit myswitch.digitalready.gov.au/.
All viewers wishing to receive VAST, including those automatically eligible based on their location, must apply for access via the mySwitch website, which is maintained by the Digital Switchover Taskforce. You must complete an online application form even if you wish to receive national services only. On the mySwitch website, you will be asked to provide the address at which access to VAST is required. You will then be advised whether you are eligible for VAST services automatically or must be considered on a case-by-case basis. A link to the application form will also be provided.
The application process is managed by the VAST administrator, which has been established by broadcasters. It is not managed by the Digital Switchover Taskforce or the ACMA.
Further information is available at Frequently Asked Questions about VAST.
Conditional access schemes for VAST
The conditional access schemes governing viewer access to VAST have been developed by broadcasters and registered by the ACMA. Copies of the schemes, registered by the ACMA under section 130ZC of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992, are available. Schemes have been registered for all of the VAST licence areas: South Eastern Australia TV3, Northern Australia TV3 and Western Australia TV3.
Information on how to apply for access to VAST services is available through the MySwitch website, which is maintained by the Digital Switchover Taskforce (myswitch.digitalready.gov.au/) or from the Digital Switchover Taskforce on 1800 20 10 13.
The ACMA is responsible for evaluating whether the schemes developed by industry comply with the requirements set out in Part 9C of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992, which collectively are intended to ensure that viewers who do not have adequate reception of one or more terrestrial commercial digital television broadcasting services should be able to access VAST. The ACMA is also responsible for monitoring schemes once registered. If an existing scheme ceases to comply with the legislative requirements, the ACMA is empowered to ask industry to develop a replacement scheme. Should industry be unable to develop an appropriate scheme, the ACMA is then able to develop and administer its own scheme.
Viewers may complain to the ACMA in the following situations:
- Where a viewer has applied for access to VAST and is either:
- 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.
Instructions on how to lodge a complaint with the ACMA are available.