CHOICE membership

Free to air TV - what are my options?

You will find a few topics about how smart smart-tv’s get after a few years. The easiest solution is to use a PC, pad, or phone cast or connected to the TV, or a streaming stick.

[Member Content]

There are others on the market.

4 Likes

Thanks. I’ll check it out.

If you have an Internet service available in your unit, you will be able to “stream” the FTA broadcast channels from the “catch-up” web sites of the FTA broadcasters.

You will need an internet device to do this. We have both an Apple TV4K box (~$250) and a Fetch box (~$300)… both have the capability of streaming the broadcast FTA channels without needing to paying ongoing monthly fees to a service such as Foxtel.

Streaming FTA channels will use internet data, so you need a good Internet connection with reasonable bandwidth. Nowadays most Internet Retail Service Providers have unlimited data usage plans readily available so the extra data usage from streaming should not be a concern if you already have an internet service.

Once you have set yourself up for data streaming of video, you will also be able to view wide range of other streaming service, including paid by the month services like Prime, STAN, Netflix, BINGE etc if you want to (but you do not need any of those service to watch the FTA channels). There are also the free video streaming services which you can access, particularly if you have an AppleTV box. We have found interesting free content on NHK (Japan), PBS (USA) and YouTube. During the COVID lockdowns our church has also been streaming Sunday worship services via Facebook and we have also been able to watch those on our TV screen using an AppleTV app.

You will probably need someone who is Internet savvy to help you get streaming set up, but hopefully a neighbour may be able to help, or otherwise perhaps asking in the Facebook group for your are will locate someone who can help.

1 Like

When we moved into a retirement unit 4 years ago, the TV reception was almost non-existent. I bought a caravan TV aerial and placed it on the balcony, which did face the nearest transmitter, 14 kms away. I found that there were a couple of sweet spots which gave us very good reception, with it mounted on a pole and stand that I made. This meant finding a way to bring the cable indoors. There is a short, flat cable that can come under a window or door. This is connected to normal cables any length needed. This might also work indoors but is not very ornamental. For a while we were the only unit with good reception. The complaints were continuous and loud, until the owners bowed to this pressure and spent many thousands of dollars on installing roof top aerials and cables down the walls to every unit, making my aerial redundant. I did try an indoor aerial, which only worked in one spot, in the middle of the room 2 metres off the floor.

3 Likes

Very interesting indeed.
I will digest all that you wrote.
A spanner in the works now is to decide when or if to upgrade my 5 year old Hisense TV, if, as I infer from the many posts, that recent models of smart TVs should have apps or allow certain apps to be downloaded such as Freeview or Freeview plus which MAY mean I will get FTA without a set top box and hence save a few dollars. Granted that, as I understand, viewing FTA without a box means I will not be able to record, but so be it.

I would warn against jumping to the conclusion that a new TV is in order because of its ‘smarts’. While new TVs tend to be ‘smart’, they do not necessarily stay that way. There are a few threads elsewhere in the Choice Community’s Electronics and Techology space that point out these apps are generally not maintained after a couple of years.

If you want the ‘smarts’ you would probably be better off buying a set-top box running for instance Android, where you know the apps will be maintained. If you have an Android phone/tablet then maybe even a Google Chromecast will meet your needs, as you can install the TV apps on your phone and then stream them directly to the Chromecast that is plugged into your TV. I think this also works with Google Chrome on Windows PC (not sure about Mac).

5 Likes

You know so much more than I on this. Thanks for sharing. I will look into what you suggest. FYI, I am an Apple guy: macbook and iPad with a dumb phone that can be connected to the internet, but it’s a very unpleasant and frustrating experience doing so.

The thing that comes to mind is that it seems, after a superficial reading of posts, that I can use my iPad with or without a STB of some kind to secure FTA channels on the 5 yr old Hisense (presumably Andriod) TV, but I wonder how user friendly process that would be on a daily basis? I wonder if multiple steps in order to view FTA will over time frustrate me? For sure it will frustrate my folks (seniors that they are).

That said, I will follow your advice. I am not rushing to buy a new TV, but will consider your and the other ideas offered on this blog.

1 Like

After you do it once it is easy. Some TVs have both the Android and Apple bits necessary to let you cast from an iPhone or an Android phone (check your owner manual), but if yours does not, check some options:

2 Likes

Thank you.
I now know what my entire weekend is going to look like. Heavy duty reading :slight_smile:
Cleared Saturday to read up on this and just as well that Sunday in Sydney is going to be rainy, so a good time to
really get a handle on this issue.

Screen mirroring is possibly a stop gap solution as it is relatively resource intensive for your phone and will drain the battery relatively quickly if not plugged into a charger. It potentially will reduce its battery life.

Where we are in Tassie, we lose FTA signals from the local repeater transmitter and use a plug in media box (Android) to stream live TV when we lose signal (3-4 nights per week and anywhere from 1 or two broadcasters to all). We tried screen mirroring but was unsatisfactory for us even with a high speed NBN connection (260mbs/25mbs). We found the battery life on our smart device disappeared quickly and often resolution lower than FTA - devices compensate for high processing by reducing screen cast quality. No such issues with a box. Downside of box is changing channels clunky using remote/box navigation rather than more simply on a hand held smart device screen mirroring. We have learnt to live with it and no more channel surfing in the commercials.

You can get a reasonable spec box or solution under $100…or high end as in the Choice review linked earlier.

I agree with

A box is cheaper to replace if technology and operating systems are superseded…a TV isn’t. A box can be used on new TVs when replaced as well. A TV from past experience or reports in the community might be smart for 2-4 years, while a box should be significantly longer. A box is also a media player (movies, photos etc) and will do what ither smart devices can do (use and operate compatible apps).

See how you go, but you may end up with a similar solution.

3 Likes

Trying to set up your mobile is an easy and low cost way to see if the technology of internet app free to air TV suits ones needs. As comfort is developed options like streaming sticks or pvrs make sense.

2 Likes

If thats the case, I would strongly suggest getting an AppleTV4, or AppleTV4k. I’m still using my 4th gen appleTV and it still gets updates. My TV is now about 12 years old (maybe more, cant really remember) and its quite happy to talk to the ATV. I also Have FetchTV with a decent indoor antenna, but thats an expensve option. I dont use the FTA channels streaming on that because I dont much like the Fetch apps for that. I prefer my ATV for streaming.

3 Likes

I recently purchased a new (smart) TV. When I phoned up I intended to purchase a small Samsung because I knew it had the free to air icons available on it. I was talked into purchasing a Hisense (smart) TV and told it was as good as Samsung. . I tried to download the icons onto it only to be told by Hisense that it did not have that capability. The store is now ignoring my messages and will not communicate with me. I didn’t really think, that in this day and age, that it would not have this facility.
One can still access the free to air but it takes a lot longer , you have to log into and have the password ready to try and type in with the remote.

2 Likes

Harvey Norman?

1 Like

If a salesman made claims against your requirements, that you subsequently found are not factual (eg product was misrepresented) you have rights to demand a refund.

Since the shop is ignoring you, you will need to deliver a formal letter of complaint per the ACL. Use the Community search tool to find many links regarding your rights, Choice advice, ACCC advice, Community advice, and a tool to help write one.

If they continue to ignore you, you can take your letter and your claim of an unsatisfactory reply to your fair trading as a complaint, and if necessary to your state xCAT for a remedy.

6 Likes

Thank you for your reply PhilT. What does ACL mean and xCAT mean please.

1 Like

ACL = Australian Consumer Law

xCAT = various State and Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal ( eg NCAT = NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal)

3 Likes

Thanks grahroll I have been in touch with NSW Fair Trading. They say they have a large backlog of cases. I just have to be patient I guess, however I don’t think I should be using the TV in the meantime. I did suggest I pay the difference and get a Samsung, but the Salesperson didn’t agree with that. I think that they must not have had the Samsung in stock, even though they were advertising it. I tried to get in touch with the General Manager, but had to leave a message but no reply.

2 Likes

You are probably wasting your time based on your experiences to date, unless you write a formal letter of complaint and deliver it to the shop manager or general manager, as the case may be and who you have easier access to. Fair Trading will often suggest you do that and report back to them on how it went, rather than stepping in if the consumer has not yet done it on their own.

3 Likes

Just joining the conversation, and I note a couple of parallel threads here. A couple of questions for @Jon01:

  • what suburb are you in?
  • what direction does your window/balcony/external view face
  • how many units are there in the block?
  • are you one of the owners?

and finally

  • did the body corporate install Foxtel via a dish or cable?

If your wall point only has one connector then it’s cable, and if it has two it’s probably satellite. Best practice is to look at a set top box, which will be labelled with its type. In the Foxtel case if it has one connector it’s definitely cable or VERY old satellite, and if it has two connectors it’s satellite for sure.

Depending on those answers, the solution may be relatively simple.

You live in what the industry calls a “multi dwelling unit” or MDU. My experience with MDUs and Bodies Corporate (I’ve been on both ends of both) is that committees are often misinformed about what is needed and/or possible to reticulate subscription TV. Read “misinformed” as both a noun, and a transitive verb, where a provider sees a gold-mine and deliberately pushes a solution that might be more profitable than it is appropriate. Committees rarely get a second opinion or have a member who understands the patch.

It is possible to design a system where both cable and satellite are available on each connector, and with really good design a common antenna isn’t excluded. In the best of all possible worlds you could have all three services on each connector. The device that does that is called a “multiswitch”, and it’s not a very expensive piece of technology.

The cost of making changes to your building’s system to add a free-to-air antenna depends on the location of the building and the existing signal distribution design in the building. Upgrade cost might or might not be impacted much by the number of units, again depending on the original distribution design.

Unfortunately there’s no one-size-fits-all case here, but reconnecting a common antenna might actually be a sensible number of $$, and could even be pretty easy. As always, your mileage may vary, and batteries definitely not included!