By Patrick Avenell

Good news for regional and rural retailers, with the Federal Communications Minister Senator Stephen Conroy announcing today that the Viewer Access Satellite Television (VAST) service in now available throughout the Remote Central and Eastern Australia TV licence areas.

VAST is a satellite service that allows individuals, in particular travellers and residents in remote areas, to access up to 16 digital TV channels via a decoder. The previous analogue service,  called Aurora Satellite, is being switched off at the end of next year, with Senator Conroy encouraging those that rely on the service to upgrade now to receive more channels and a higher quality service.

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“In 2011, domestic and international tourists spent 41 million nights in caravan parks around Australia,” Conroy said. “There are also more than 50,000 Australian campervan and motor home owners. Until recently, the only TV someone could watch after a long day’s driving or sightseeing was the limited choice available on analogue television, sometimes fewer than four channels.

 “Through VAST, people travelling across regional and remote Australia can now access up to 16 digital channels, the same as in the capital cities. This includes the five free-to-air networks and their multi-channels, as well as regional news services, and specialised public service channels.

“The old Aurora Satellite service is being switched off on 31 December 2013, so I strongly encourage people to get themselves a satellite dish and apply for VAST now.”

Conroy also announced the availability of a new app for iOS and Android that will utilise the phone or tablet’s GPS signal to locate and finetune the VAST signal to get the best possible reception.

 “Travellers will no longer have to waste time in stormy weather or in the dark pointing their antennas or satellite dishes in any number of directions. The app will show exactly where they need to be to pick up the best television signal,” Senator Conroy said.

Retailers in rural areas should communicate this development to residents and travellers, especially the caravan or ‘Grey Nomad’ tourists, with the end-goal being to upgrade these TV viewers up to the digital system while in the store.