Ask LH: How Can I Watch Sydney Or Melbourne TV Stations From Regional Areas?

Dear LH, I've just moved to the border of Vic and NSW, and wondered what I need to access either Sydney or Melbourne TV stations (using the cheapest solution available). The house I've bought has a Foxtel satellite dish if that helps? I'm finding country TV very, very limited. Can you assist? A Farm Potato

Image: Brett & Sue Coulstock

Dear FP,

Having grown up in regional NSW, I recognise your pain, although with the advent of digital TV and growth in channels it's not quite the problem it used to be, at least for a lot of programming. Obviously that could vary depending on your location and the quality of the digital signal.

Unfortunately Foxtel Satellite is unlikely to remedy your situation, as Foxtel's rebroadcast licence only covers the stations that allow content to be broadcast over satellite. Most notably, 7MATE and GEM are available if you're a Foxtel Cable subscriber, but not on satellite.

In theory you could install a signal amplifier to the existing antenna to boost your reception, but at the levels you're allowed to boost signals without running foul of the ACMA, you'll only improve the signals for the digital channels already available to you, while possibly screwing up the reception for your neighbours. Tread carefully when boosting signals, because the penalties can be quite serious. You're certainly not going to be able to boost your signal enough to get the Sydney or Melbourne stations legally. The MySwitch website should give you a picture of your expected digital station coverage.

That leaves internet streaming as an option. You could try to hunt down someone rebroadcasting a stream of whichever channel you're missing out on, although this is obviously an illegal avenue. You could also see if the existing subscription services — Netflix, et al — cover your needs in a way that the local channels aren't doing.

I'm guessing, however, that your issue is to do with sports coverage, where there can be some significant differences between regions as to what's shown and what's blacked out. For international codes there are some streaming options, but when it comes to Australian codes your legitimate choices are significantly more limited.

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    Foxtel satellite box registered in Sydney or Melbourne. About as easy as it gets.

      Does Foxtel provide local channels over satellite in Sydney and Melbourne?

        Of course, otherwise the suggestion would be a little useless :)

          Odd, in other regions the local channels are not provided over satellite, but they are over cable.

      Yes, this would work, however the issue of not having ALL the digital channels still exist (albeit a minor problem).

    there is the VAST satellite service using the same optus satellite as foxtel. this provides all the free to air stations over satellite. check your eligibility on the vast site and a buy a overpriced pos set top box that was approved by the government with no industry consultation. will enable you to get FTA TV via SAT if you are regional enough I think.

    Good luck!

    "In theory you could install a signal amplifier to the existing antenna to boost your reception, but at the levels you’re allowed to boost signals without running foul of the ACMA....Tread carefully when boosting signals, because the penalties can be quite serious."

    I fail to understand how a signal amplifier on a RX only system will cause you any issues, your not generating a transmission, only amplifying the signal you have. With digital there is a SNR that must be surpassed for signal to appear on the TV, so if a signal is currently just below that then yes this might fix it, if its not being received then your out of luck. It won't affect anyone else in the area, nor cause issues with the ACMA to my knowledge.

    Last edited 21/07/15 4:21 pm

      You are generating a transmission.
      With out getting technical. They do output the boosted signal at the aerial that can lead to an overloaded signal for other people nearby.

        Aatuti is correct. The author and G-man are confused with the issue of mobile telephone boosters which are illegal (if not supplied by your carrier) as they re-transmit the mobile network signals. A TV mast head amplifier (MHA) is often referred to as a booster, but it just amplifies the signals into the cable running from your receive antenna to your TV set. Of course too much amplification can distort your own signal so MHA's are best avoided if you don't really need one. They can cause interference to the reception of others if they become faulty.

    If you want sports coverage in Australia, connecting foxtel would be the best way to go, but increasingly that doesn't cover everything.

    The Australian test cricket series, the T20 big bash league, the Australian open tennis and NBL basketball are all examples where you still need free to air because they are FTA exclusives (and there are others not included here).

    An increasing number of sports can go direct to the public streaming though:
    AFL - pay Telstra $90 a year for every match live on a smartphone or tablet (foxtel deal prevents TV streaming, but a VPN out to Singapore and a subscription to will fix that)
    NBA - all games live, $23 a month through (there is usually a whole sesaon option available when the season starts too)
    Cricket - all australian matches are available through the smartphone/tablet app as an in app purchase at $20 for a season
    ...and there are many other examples of this

    There are many regional transmitters serving up free to air programming.
    Check with local antenna installers. With the right antenna, mast, you may end up with various channels from both states!

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