Hazelbrook man mourns analog TV switch off

It was a day he was dreading. Yesterday (December 3) John Hunter of Hazelbrook watched on multiple screens in his Mountains home the end of an era, television’s analog farewell as transmissions turned to digital.

Mr Hunter recorded the moment on VHS players, on every channel, the moment at 9am  on Tuesday (December 3) when analog TV stopped broadcasting and the Blue Mountains and Sydney switched to digital-only transmission. 

He said it was a bitter day without much ceremony. “The commercial channels have had messages in the lead-up — but we’ve always had it, we use it and now it’s gone.”

Mr Hunter said Channel Nine “mustn’t  be very sentimental” as like most of the other stations the screens went to snow without much ceremony on its analog channel.  The ABC “had a little segment warning it was going off... showing people recycling their old TVs” but it was Channel 7 who had captured the mood of the moment.

“Before we had 24 hour broadcasting, Channel 7 had a getting ready for bed segment with a kangaroo going to bed and they ran that with a banner saying goodbye. It was a good way to send off.”

“I watched five screens as they all went off within a few seconds of each other, it was quite sad.”

Mr Hunter, 45, has been a long-time fan of TV since he first saw it as a four-year-old. In his three bedroom home, about 70 old TVs of varying sizes are stacked on kitchen shelves, lined up in the living room, with another two in the laundry and another 130 stacked up in the back shed.

“I remember seeing the Flintstones on our black and white 23 inch Pye in 1972 and asking Dad what it was, we had lived in New Guinea and I had never seen TV, I was just intrigued from then on.”

Mr Hunter started collecting and repairing TVs in the early 1980s as technology changed. He has about 20 set top boxes to ensure he can keep using the analog TVs, including the old Pye.

“I bought extras because I am sort of worried they will stop making them. TV sets, I can keep them going as long as I am alive, but the digital boxes are not repairable.”

Despite a multitude of screens, he is choosy about what he watches — “no American crap on Channel Nine” and believes the quality of programming was “better when we only had five channels”.

“It’s the passing of a very important part of 20th century technological history and it’s been forced on us. There’s no technical reason to do it. Digital is just another outlet for advertising as if we need more and there are places the digital signal doesn’t work.”

The Department of Communications says digital transmissions offer improved viewing through more channels and high-definition quality. A “rapid increase” in conversions to digital was expected in the final days, a spokeswoman said, adding “many people leave it to the last minute to convert or wait until after the switchover [and] some viewers may simply refuse to switch.”

Some households will be entitled to a set top box, help with installation, antennas and tuning through the federal government’s Household Assistance Scheme. Eligible pensioners should have received notice through Centrelink. They will have until January 3 to apply to the scheme and can call (1800) 556443. 

About 23,000 homes in southern NSW and 28,000 in northern NSW had not converted when those regions went digital-only. Figures from last month showed, 94 per cent of Sydney’s 1.7 million households have switched to digital. Melbourne and remote central and eastern Australia will be the last areas to sign off from analog in a few days time.

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