‘Light at the end of the tunnel’

THERE are hopes a solution to the poor television reception saga, which has plagued the Boolarra township for 20 months, is in reach, after ongoing community lobbying prompted intervention from the Federal Government.

According to Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester, who took the community’s campaign to Canberra in May, the Australian Communication and Media Authority has identified an intermittent transport stream which had interrupted the signal to households.

“The (Communication) Minister’s office has worked hard to help resolve the situation and I’ve been advised that they have requested that the problem to be rectified as a matter of urgency,” Mr Chester said.

Since becoming one of the first Australian towns to make a complete switchover from analogue to digital broadcast in February 2011, Boolarra residents have endured multiple signal interruptions per day, prompting a 12-month campaign by residents to address the issue.

A spokesperson for Communications Minister Stephen Conroy confirmed the government had ramped up its response to the issue in light of widespread community complaints.

An ACMA technical team was in Boolarra yesterday to further investigate the situation and fine-tune its response to the problem, after the team initially visited on 22 October.

“Early indications are that they are being caused by faults with the TV transmission equipment. We expect to know more by early next week,” the spokesperson said.

The government’s ramped up efforts come as a contrast to its initial reaction to the community campaign; two months ago Minister Conroy was quoted in The Express stating he was “confident” all necessary adjustments had been made to transmission infrastructure to provide adequate digital television to Boolarra residents.

Boolarra resident and head petitioner Val Henderson said the community was pleased with the amount of attention the issue was finally getting.

“The situation has been one of extreme frustration for us; after putting up with it for so long while we prepared our campaign, it feels great there is light at the end of the tunnel,” Ms Henderson said.

She said while reception issues drastically improved the day The Express ran an article covering the Boolarra campaign in late September, interruptions had returned on a regular basis since then.

Mr Chester said he was also following up additional concerns which have been raised by Churchill and Yinnar residents, including a petition signed by more than 50 residents from the Churchill district.