Pensioners to get free set-top box

It was US president Herbert Hoover who promised Americans a chicken in every pot during the Great Depression.

On Tuesday Treasurer Wayne Swan’s Budget will announce a scheme to give pensioners free set-top boxes to convert analog television to digital.

The $308.8 million scheme will provide a set-top-box for people who qualify for the maximum rate of the age pension, war service pension, carer’s pension or the disability support pension.

The digital switchover began in the Mildura region last year and is being rolled out to metropolitan cities by the end of 2013.

But concerns have been raised following recent natural disasters that the digital switchover could mean pensioners miss out on emergency-services alerts.

Assistance offered in regional areas of NSW, Victoria and South Australia will be extended to cities.

At no cost to eligible households, the Government will supply a set-top box and install it on the person’s analog TV.

“Senior Australians deserved the historic increase in the pension we provided, and they deserve this help to make the switch to digital TV,” Swan said.

“The switch to digital is not always easy, particularly for the elderly, veterans and carers under cost-of-living pressures, so this measure will make sure Australians on maximum-rate pensions aren’t left behind.”

It isn’t initially clear if the scheme provides a digital set-top box in standard or high definition, with some channels such as ONE, 7mate and GEM available to viewers with an HD set top box.

Source: News Limited


  1. I know people have a right to voice there opinions but they don’t know the facts. I challenge you to call a antenna guy and and ask for a quote on supplying a HD set top box, digital ready antenna and the proper cabling rg6 quadsheild cable. Do it in the major capitals and you will find that it will cost more than $350. Now get a quote in regional Australia like Rockhampton and that price will double. Then try and get it in Julia Creek or some way out location. I would say most pensioners could not afford to get this done. If you really want to know what is stupid that is giving money to people to have children and forcing employers to pay maternity leave,
    Leave the pensioners alone and if you want to have kids don,t hold your hand out for free money.

  2. Is the Labour government incapable of learning from past (and very basic) mistakes? Of course businesses are going to rort this and pay a pittance to schmucks who contact to install them. If they are going to spend my hard earned tax dollars on making sure pensioners can still watch TV (which is fair enough) – just put the $420 into the hands of the pensioner – at least they can then source a sensibly price installation and use the rest of the cash to buy essentials. Better still, give them $300 each – they can still get a STB installed for that and save $$ as well!! How many more times are they going to give rorters opportunities to rip the taxpayer of?

  3. tanya girling

    im hoping that age get the set to box becouse thy need it wen we go over in 213
    becouse we have not got HD TV in our home i know that we all dont have the money to get the stuff and i go all out for the age becoues i look after my mum not like me were i do things anymore

  4. Hi
    it would be cheaper and better for older people (having problems with extra remote) to send Kevin 7 to china and import Digtial TV’s Goverments imports and is not paying import duty. Cost approx $150 for 32″ Tv, that is much less than paying $350.

  5. Yes Geoff, they are nice people, they also take me to the hospital at any hr too if I need it. I’d have replied earlier, but I had to wait untill they got home from work. Are you on a disabled pension Geoff? Are you on any pension at all? Seems to me that the fact you haven’t commented on any of the actual points of the conversation prob means you’re not on a pension. And instead you focus on the time of my reply? Do you think that all humans go to bed prior to midnight? If this is all youve got to try to discredit me…lol…try harder. And If youd like to challenge my
    opinions, why don’t you comment on the
    actual topic and surrounding comments? As this is what this whole discussion is about. P.s sometimes I use a mates iPhone to post, not on this topic so far, but sometimes. would u like to try to discredit me on that
    Somehow aswel?

  6. Secret Squïrrel

    @Callas – that sounds very much like an issue with your STB. You have to “reboot” it (turn off then on) like a computer. Using the remote just puts it into standby mode.

  7. is it me or does anyone else experience the ‘no signal’ message that pops up on the odd occasion whilst watching a program. i have to go to the set top box and switch it off and wait a couple of seconds then switch it back on to get it going again (turning it off by the remote control does not work at all). very annoying when watching a program that you enjoy and this happens without any warning.

  8. To Kerry,
    To answer your question, I have very nice neighbours that allow me to use their pc when I want/need to. I don’t own a pc of my own because it’s something I can’t afford.

  9. @casting couch. It will be indirectly means tested. As it says in the article, only “people who qualify for the maximum rate of the age pension, war service pension, carer’s pension or the disability support pension” will get a set top box. These benefits are already means tested.

  10. BundyNelle

    So, the Federal Govt is going to give out digital boxes to pensioners + installation free of charge??? Good Grief! Could they also provide a “Help Desk Hotline” as well whilst they are at it???? My Mum is over80 and techno-phob at its best. We bought her a HD Box and she won’t use it. She got confused once and refuses to use it at all now. She states when digital is essential she just won’t watch TV at all. How many more pensioners out there are like her??? Just like the roof insulation, this will be another bundle of millions of dollars flushed down the drain.

  11. casting couch

    How about they means test this gov freebie? There are many pensioners out there who cry poor but have plenty of cash. One I know always says she has no money for this and that but then goes out and buys a $2000 Samsung TV and has new carpet put down.

    Not all are like that, but they are out there.

  12. As a pensioner, with how expensive everything is now I my pension only covers just over a week of food if I pay all the bills? So I don’t get to eat for the better part of a week unless my friends help me. So to that douchebag above that complained about tax payers paying for the stb’s, u should b made to attempt to make ends meet on the pension, and u would quickly find out how hard it is. And just for the record, I’m disabled and can barley walk. As far as the govt giving stb’s to us… Wot a complete waste of taxpayers money, if u can’t pay the Elec bill to be able to switch on the tv, what good is it? We as pensioners allready can’t make it stretch far enough as the price of food, rent, Elec, gas, water, petrol is continuing to rise. Yet the pension stays “virtually” static. We need an increase in payment to even try to break even with the cost of living! I can’t eat an stb! Nor can I pay bills or jam it in my petrol tank…(I know where I’d like to jam it though!). Most people allready a digital tv these days anyway! I have one, even if it is a sml one. So what am I getting from this
    budget…yet another kick in the teeth!
    So F*** you Australian govt, and you’re multiple pay rises for yourselves every year, you miserable filthy theiving parasites.

  13. This is ridiculously impractical. The set top box will cost $60, but installation will also cost something like $200. It’s a horrendous waste of taxpayers money. Also, depending on the sensitivity of the tuner in the STB which does vary depending on the brand, it may not work well in certain locations, so if they’re getting a warehouse full of the same STB’s, there’s going to be problems in the roll-out, as well as cost blowouts.

  14. @DAN – well my whole point is if they are given a one off increase in their pensions to cover the cost then I bet many will not use it for a STB and spend it frivolous thing like food and rent. LOL and then be no better off when analogue ends in there area and they are without TV and thus a vital weather warning system.

    Mind you if the government was serious about warning the population in times of emergency they would get that text and email waring system up and running and make it mandatory for all cell phone users. And put the money towards cell phones for those pensions who can’t afford them.

  15. LJP you are right – we had to get a new aerial too, not much use having the box without a suitable aerial.
    A pensioner acquaintance of mine has at least one overseas holiday every year, as well as several interstate visits to friends and relatives. She is always first in line with her hand out for freebies – had her ceilings insulated thanks to the gov (us), so now she can run her central heating more efficiently!
    Meanwhile a single mum whose useless hubby shot through leaving her to raise their son, can barely afford to feed the two of them, and often goes without herself.
    I wonder who deserves a free set-top box?

  16. ETA – At the start of the year I got a Strong HD STB for $50 works great and has the added benefit of becoming a PVR when you plug in any HDD or thumb drive.

  17. Charlie Kelly

    How much of this is, Pensioners can’t afford vs Can’t be bothered vs so out of touch they have no idea what’s going on with this newfangled digital tv the youngsters are always rattling on about.

    A few years back my father went out and had to convince his parents to let him buy them a new tv, a plasma with a built in receiver. They were against it and would have just stuck with their crappy old tv if he didn’t basically end up just buying it for them against their will.
    They of course were then happy with it.
    He offered to get them full foxtel for free. They told him under no circumstances to do that. So he let that go.

    Interesting he was saying how the whole concept of have menus, using arrows to navigate up and down and settings were just completely foreign, like it was another language to them.

    It’d be odd to get so out of touch and stuck in your ways like that. Where the idea of a newer tv is something you’re against.

  18. @Steve – sorry but some pensioners can barely afford to feed them selves let alone the money for a STB.

    IMO the government should give those covered a voucher with $X value to go to the local retailer of their choice and buy the STB of their choice or use the money to put against getting a new HD TV if their old TV is about to crap out. No point spending money on a STB if their old TV dies the following week.

    And I agree the retails should only be selling HD and not SD TVs or STB, especially to those who may not have an understanding of the difference. I did notice the other day at BigW they were finally not selling analogue CRT TVs.

  19. In fringe areas, Pensioners will need more than a STB. Digital TV needs a decent signal and is more prone to impulse interference (pixilation). They’ll need a new aerial for the digital channels and a new Quad core downlead. Can”t watch Parliament otherwise. IMO give the Pensioners the money and let them decide how to spend it. Those in Hostels or Nursing Homes could have a banquet instead.

  20. I realise this story has come directly from New Ltd however this has been in place for well over a year now and the rollout is well underway. I don’t know why it has become news now. And yes, Centrelink is involved in the rollout.

  21. surely they would have to give them HD boxes there are roughly the same price as SD boxes come to think of it SD boxes and pvrs should not be allowed on the maket because people who dont know to much about digital tv might think that they are the same

  22. What a wasted option, why not just provide a new LCD tv for the pensioners. You can easily get a 32 inch tv for under $400, that would cover around 772000 households.

  23. Yes, this is what pensioner’s need. Now they can watch the extra channels even if they can’t afford to eat or pay the bills. Well done to this government – they never fail to astound me with how stupid and out of touch they really are!

  24. sam from rockhampton

    typical labor party hand out to those on welfare and make everyone else who works pay for it
    why cant people just buy their own box they are about $50

  25. Of course the Government should give out HD set top boxes. They are quite affordable now – around $70 for a small, basic model, with several brands to choose from (e.g. Grundig, DGTEC, Wintal). The price is expected to drop even further with new models gradually becoming available. The Government has to manage the giveaway better than its botched home insulation scheme though. Perhaps Centrelink (which pays out the pensions) can get involved.

  26. Set top boxes are a waste of time and money. It’s probably cheaper to give pensioners etc that don’t have pay tv a new hd 32″ tv and those who have pay tv get nothing.

  27. Isn’t this just a confirmation of what was promised 1 or 2 years ago? ie. that if you didn’t have an STB (HD by default) already, that people in those categories would get
    one for free – or was that just initially for Mildura residents? Can’t quite recall after all
    of this time… :-)

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