Daintree television black spots research questioned


Howard Salkow

Senior Journalist

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Mike D'Arcy who has written to Council questioning TV black spots research. Image: Supplied

A Daintree resident has claimed that Douglas Shire Council’s research methods regarding television broadcasting from the Alexandra Bay and Daintree Village Television Black Spot towers is potentially flawed and suggests that a different research design and analysis might get a better grasp of people actually affected.

Mike D’Arcy, of D’Arcy of Daintree 4WD Tours, said while he is satisfied that the matter has been deferred to next Tuesday’s (December 3) Ordinary Council Meeting (from November 12), he wants Councillors to have a good look at the TV blackspot funding matter.

Mr D’Arcy sent his concerns in an e-mail to Mayor Julia Leu, Councillors David Carey, Abigail Noli, Roy Zammarato and Michael Kerr; and two Council staff members: CEO Mark Stoermer and Michael Kriedemann, Executive Manager Infrastructure.

“I was concerned to note the Council staff paper supporting the possible non-funding of TV black spots services, and relieved to see that the matter had been deferred until Council’s December 3 meeting, pending further advice from Council staff.

“I'm all for Council making hard decisions where they have to, but this should be on the basis of best knowledge and understanding of all the issues. 

“I am not sure that this was achieved prior to the last Council meeting, and hopefully will be addressed via the staff report at the December meeting. I am firstly concerned at the intelligence-gathering process,” Mr D’Arcy writes.

At the November meeting it was agreed not to resolve the following and re-visit at the December meeting:

  • Not renew transmission equipment at the Alexandra Bay and Daintree Village Television Black Spot Towers; 
  • Continue maintenance of the existing equipment at the Alexandra Bay and Daintree Village Black Spot towers until equipment becomes irreparable, at which time the service will be discontinued; 
  • Advise Cow Bay, Diwan and Daintree Village residents that transmissions from the black spot television tower sites can no longer be guaranteed.

Mr D’Arcy’s key contention is a survey which was sent to 169 Diwan and Cow Bay households in August 2019, asking whether they relied on the free-to-air broadcast signal; or whether they had either switched to another service; or did not have a television. A total of 38 responses were received.

“The survey design didn't seem to cover all potentially affected residents. The survey monkey design only received a 25% response rate, which is too low to have confidence in the results.

“I would not trust that the estimation that just nine people in Diwan/Cow Bay are affected by the Alexandra Bay tower.

“To project from this that the unsurveyed Daintree Village community might number around 18, would appear to be speculative. So, an estimated total of 27 residents in Cow Bay, Diwan and Daintree Village also appeared speculative,” he writes.

According to Council minutes, a survey was not done in the Daintree Village; however, it is known that there are about 72 homes in the area.

Mr D’Arcy writes that the cost structure presented by Council might well be investigated further.

“How confident is Council that repair /maintenance costs are valid, and that reasonable options have been rigorously investigated?

“I have checked with just one Brisbane-based company, STRA, who provide annual service and remote monitoring to a number of Councils at around $7,000 for a single tower; whereas the DSC staff paper suggests that Council is currently paying around $80,000 to maintain ‘this unreliable service’.

“A direct comparison may not be valid, but is worth reviewing and explaining,” says Mr D’Arcy.

Mr D’Arcy said Council has estimated that total equipment renewal would cost $400,000, but questioned whether Council had asked the marketplace whether provision of totally new equipment is really necessary, and is the estimate based on competitive tendering?

Mr D’Arcy also raises the following questions in his e-mail:

  • What is the current TV power situation with the Alexandra Range tower?
  • What would happen to Council licences should the TV service be eliminated? 
  • Could they be used to assist Optus or Telstra’s mobile service coverage?

“Could I suggest that Council dig a little deeper into the resident numbers affected; and the costs involved.

“Maybe, in line with good practice competition policy, STRA and perhaps other service providers, could be approached to assess both upgrading and maintenance and provide independent quotations,” he said.

In their response, Council said: “As this letter (e-mail) was addressed to Councillors, Council will be responding to the individual who wrote the letter.

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