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Federal Government to spend 4.5 billion on digital TV?

The Federal Government has denied it could spend up to $4.5 billion on the roll-out of digital television, after announcing the cost of the Mildura switch-off trial this week.

The Federal Government has denied it could spend up to $4.5 billion on the roll-out of digital television, after announcing the cost of the Mildura switch-off trial this week.

The Federal Government has confirmed a $13.6 million dollar package for the Mildura region which will include set-top boxes for up to 3000 pension-receiving households and access to satellite services for people in "black spots".

Based on Mildura's population of 60,000, the Government's package equates to an average cost of $225 per person, or a total of $4.5 billion if rolled out "as is" to every Australian.

However, a spokesperson for the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy said it was "impossible to extrapolate" the costs, and that part of the $13.6 million package would be spent on infrastructure which would cover the rest of the Australia, including a website and a national call centre.

"This is a pilot program and we look forward to finding out what works and what doesn't work", the spokesperson said.

She said the topography of the Mildura meant that satellite services were a "good fit", and that satellite would only be rolled out to other Australian areas that required it.

She said that the entire cost of the program would only be known after the completion of the Mildura trial.

Other areas in Australia have up until 2013 before analogue signals are switched off, and meanwhile the promotion of the new Freeview service is designed to educate consumers about the benefits of digital television ahead of the switch-off dates.