Streaming TV a must for those born outside Australia

Access to shows  from former land staves off home sickness

14 March 2016. Kevin Fitzsimons

Australia has many great qualities. TV is not one of them. The commercial channels are dominated by game shows, reality shows and middle-of-the-road US crime procedurals and lame comedies. But mostly ads. Loud, unsubtle, in-your-face ads that almost make even the occasional good show unwatchable. Meanwhile, the public channels are poorly financed, so generate very little in the way of new content. It is no wonder Australians are amongst the greatest downloaders of illegal content in the world.

 

But let's put aside the quality of Australian TV for a moment. For every new migrant - even those from closely related cultures such as England or the US - tuning into Australian TV starkly reveals you are no longer in your motherland; the medium is strange and unfamiliar and doesn't really talk to or for you. For those born overseas, it invariably invokes a yearning for stories from the old country. Now SBS - one of the two public broadcasters (the other being the ABC) - does have a manifesto to show overseas content, and does a reasonable job (in light of its constraints) trying to cater for the many different cultures, but it can never hope to provide very much to any particular culture.

 

But with the advent of internet TV one really need not be reliant on Australian broadcasters. All you need is (1) a good streaming box that brings the internet to your TV, (2) a subscription to a Virtual Private Network (VPN) or DNS proxy to get past geo-blocking barriers and (3) subscriptions to relevant channels to deliver international TV of your choice. (Plus good broadband internet - easy to obtain in our cities; but not always as accessible elsewhere)

 

There's plenty of information on the internet about how to do this, but for illustration, here's what I've done. (some may find the following a little techy, but one sometimes needs to embrace one's inner geek to get the best streaming solution).

 

Streaming Box - I mostly use a Roku 3, sometimes a laptop, and occasionally a Chromecast

 

I've been looking for a worthy successor to my much loved but ailing Boxee Box (since support for it ended 2 yrs ago). It had to be a machine that was easy to use by the kids and parents alike, contained the top streaming apps (Netflix, Vudu, Google Play), wasn't buggy or prone to crashing, and would still work in Australia and access international content via a DNS proxy.

 

Roku can't be bought in Australia (though a local telecom carrier sells a locked-down version rebadged as Telstra Box) and one has to get hold of a US ZIP code to use the software. But there are workarounds easily found on web. Nevertheless, why bother when there are other streaming devices available in Australia? Well, most devices are pretty poor and/or lock you into often shallower Australian content pools, and/or don't have Vudu and other US apps. I've got Google Chromecast - and it has it uses - but it is glitchy and cumbersome to use a smartphone to cast. The Apple TV has its fans but locks users into Australian iTunes for movies.

 

We've had Roku a couple of weeks and the kids (10 and 7) are using it no problem. My older son especially likes using the headphones attached to remote and my younger son likes PBS Kids.  Netflix's functionality is very cool (after using dated Boxee Box) and Vudu has subtitles which is also great (Boxee didn't and also sound was very weak).

 

Being a US box, Roku can't access Australian apps such as ABC iView, but we knew that beforehand (Chromecast in theory does iView but very buggy). There really isn't a one-box-fits-all solution for globe-trotting TV watchers in Australia yet. But we now only need to use laptop occasionally for iView.

 

So I'm very happy with Roku.  I'm looking forward to experimenting with getting past geo barriers on other apps such as Hulu and Amazon.

 

As my experience illustrates, it may be the case that you end up using a streaming box most of the time and a browser on a laptop at other times.

 

Virtual Private Network (VPN) or DNS Proxy

 

This is the software that allows one to access streaming channels from outside of Australia. Now whilst some self-interested groups argue this is illegal under Australian copyright law, it is generally recognised that as long as you're paying for the content (as opposed to stealing in as a pirate does), no Australian copyright law has been broken. See Malcolm Turnbull's view on this.

 

There are now a variety of commercial firms who provide subscription VPN or DNS Proxy services for a few dollars a month. The better ones provide very clear instructions on their website. I use UnblockUs .

 

Overseas Apps or Channels

 

Once again, a quick search of the internet will highlight channels or apps that deliver shows from particular countries.  But note that your choice of streaming device may limit which channels you can stream. For instance, the Roku 3 has lots of international channels, but it doesn't have a web browser option so I can't just stream shows that use this method (and many do - BBC iPlayer for example).  Indeed, if you haven't got a streaming box already, it's probably best to establish the channels you'll want to watch, and work out which streaming device does the best job at obtaining them.

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abode. noun. a place of residence. a home.

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Victoria 3000

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All registered migration agents must comply with the Code of Conduct of the Office of Australian Migration Agents' Registration Authority (OMARA). A link to information about the Agents' Code of Conduct can be found here

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New location - by appointment

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Springvale

Victoria 3171

Want expert, value-for-money advice and a Melbourne immigration lawyer by your side? Please get in touch.

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