Retune flicks spectrum switch on TVs for Canberra and surrounds

Black Mountain Telecom Tower - 4

Canberrans who try to tune into ABC or SBS news tonight only to find their favourite channels inexplicably missing in action needn’t fret that the latest round of funding cuts to hit public broadcasting has errantly pulled the plug on local services.

There’s an altogether simpler explanation.

The deadline has arrived for the nation’s capital and its surrounds to switch frequencies on spectrum dial to free up valuable space for extra digital mobile signals like 4G as the government cashes in on an ever increasing number of services heading onto smartphones and digital mobile devices.

It’s a switch that’s been years in the planning and will mean that hundreds of thousands of people will need to retune their digital TVs, set top boxes and receiver/recorders if they’re relying on that staple fixture of suburban rooftops, the antenna.

Fortunately retuning digital devices today is a far simpler affair than the frustratingly delicate and fiddly hit-and-miss fiasco that used to be the norm with manually tuned analogue TVs and VCRs.

For the uninitiated, the process essentially consists of using the remote control to prompt devices to automatically retune themselves.

Even so, the Retune education campaign being run by the government is playing it safe in its advice to consumers.

“Viewers might want to write down their favourite channel, program recordings or parental lock settings before they retune,” a statement from the Department of Communications helpfully says.

The Department also advises that anyone who is “having difficulty retuning their equipment should check their manufacturer’s handbook or manual for instructions on how to retune, ask a friend or family member to help, visit the Retune website or call the Digital Ready Information Line on 1800 20 10 13, 8am to 10pm (AEDT), 7 days.”

Viewers are similarly being advised that there could be interruptions for over a few days as equipment is reconfigured.

“There may be some disruption to all TV services today and tomorrow due to work being conducted at the transmission site. Viewers should wait until after the retune time of 5:00am before retuning,” the Department said.

“There may also be outages to all TV services on 25 November. Viewers will not need to retune again – the TV services will reappear once the work at the transmission site has been completed.”

The same switch also affects the nearby NSW townships of Queanbeyan and Gunning.

A fair amount of the switching work being carried out on the signal shift is occurring at one of Canberra’s most iconic visual landmarks, Black Mountain Tower which officially (for Telstra at least) goes by the name of Telstra Tower.

Standing at 195m tall, the edifice that was opened in 1980 by then Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser and remains one of the few pieces of telecommunications infrastructure that also doubles as a tourism drawcard and includes a glitzy revolving restaurant which offers 360 degree panoramic views of the city and its surrounds.

The tower has also become somewhat of a humorous Aussie retro-chic cult classic thanks to an educational visitor video played in the basement of the building that extolls the structure that has remained in place and almost unchanged since the building opened.

Viewers are treated to clichés such as doctors driving BMWs checking their pagers on the golf course, professional gentleman relaxing in bold woollen cardigans and scantily clad concrete workers wearing little more than boots and shorts while on the job.

Indeed the sole change to the video over the last 35 years appears to be some clumsy reediting where the former Telecom Australia brand is overdubbed with the then new   and apparently difficult to pronounce – icon of Telstra.

It’s worth the visit if only to chortle at how markedly Australian television has changed from the days when Canberra had just two TV channels and a clear oversupply of macramé and turtleneck sweaters.

Comment below to have your say on this story.

If you have a news story or tip-off, get in touch at  

Sign up to the Government News newsletter

Leave a comment:

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required