Thursday, May 12, 2011

Why we shouldn't worry about the set-top box program

The Government's budget announcement of over $300M to fund in home assistance for pensioners to install digital set-top boxes has drawn plenty of criticism, mostly of this kind that repeats the assertions that this will be like the home insulation and BER programs.

The problem with this is that there really are a lot of myths about these two programs.

The Australian National Audit Office found that the BER program worked and worked well.
The issue of course was that to work as a stimulus it had to be a rushed program, and that as a consequence not all the controls as good as they might have otherwise been. The program also didn't fix smelly toilet blocks because it was designed to be new expenditure and not to simply displace State expenditure with Federal expenditure.

This week analysis of the CSIRO data on the home insulation program revealed that the instance of house fire due to insulation installation was LOWER during the program than it had been before!

So we really should be quite relaxed about the set-top box program - the Federal Government's record is actually good, not bad!

Two other facts are that fully 11% of the project expenditure ($42M) goes to Human Services to ascertain whether a household is eligible for the program. The second is that DBCDE programs are traditionally under-spent. This is likely to be the same. No longer is it just a matter of getting digital signal. TV - especially sport and news - is being shot and given sur- and sub- titles on the assumption of a 16:9 aspect ratio. Most consumers will move to new TVs for these reasons, and not access the set-top box route.

Novae Meridianae Demetae Dexter delenda est

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