Digital Television Switchover
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What is digital TV switchover?
Switchover is the process of converting the UK’s terrestrial television system to digital.
Between now and 2012, analogue channels broadcast from more than a thousand
transmitter sites will be switched off region by region and replaced with Freeview digital TV and radio services.
Why is it happening?
Households in many parts of the UK are currently unable to receive Freeview services.
Switching off the existing analogue broadcasting system will create the capacity necessary to extend coverage to the whole country. Broadcasting in digital format is also a more efficient way to transmit television signals and will free up airwaves for new services such as ultra-fast wireless broadband and mobile television. Switching the terrestrial TV system to digital will ensure the UK keeps pace with other leading countries, many of which are also switching to all digital broadcasting.
What do you need to do?
Most people have already converted their main TV to digital. Viewers must ensure that their TVs are capable of receiving a digital signal in order to continue receiving television services after switchover. Virtually any TV, even black and white ones, can be converted with a digital box. Anyone buying new TV equipment should look for the ‘digital tick’ logo which identifies equipment designed to work before, during and after switchover.
What are the different ways to get digital TV?
There are three main options for going digital:
- Convert your existing TV with a digital set-top box (e.g. Freeview, Top Up TV, BT Vision*)
- Get a service like satellite, cable or broadband TV installed for you (e.g. Sky, Freesat, Virgin Media, Wight Cable, SmallWorld or Tiscali TV)
- Get a new TV with digital built-in (e.g. Freeview, Freesat)
*Requires broadband connection
A postcode checker on the Digital UK website (www.digitaluk.co.uk) tells you which options are available in your area now and after switchover.
How much does digital television cost?
If you are getting digital for the first time or are converting secondary sets around the
home, the cost will vary according to the number of TVs and method of conversion. It’s
estimated that 5-10% of households may need to replace damaged aerials in order to
receive Freeview signals.
- Freeview digital boxes cost around £20
- Integrated digital televisions start from around £150
- Freesat from Sky costs approximately £150 (includes installation)
- Freesat from BBC/ITV costs from £49 for a standard box and £80 for installation
- Subscriptions (e.g. Sky, Virgin, Top Up TV) start from approximately £10 per month
- Digital television recorders cost from around £80
- A standard new roof aerial normally costs £60-180
When will switchover happen?
The UK’s first switchover was completed in Copeland in Cumbria (including the town of
Whitehaven) in November 2007. The process will continue transmitter by transmitter
across each TV region from 2008-2012
What channels will you get?
Switchover will make Freeview television channels available across the UK. Viewers
choosing to get digital television this way will be able to receive BBC One, BBC Two, ITV1, C4 (and S4C in Wales) and Five plus a range of digital channels and services free via an aerial. Channel availability depends on where you live and which transmitter you get your signal from. Most households will be able to receive more than 40 Freeview channels via an aerial; 20 of the most popular channels will be available elsewhere.
You can find out more about digital TV options and the Freeview channels available in your area by visiting www.digitaluk.co.uk or calling Digital UK on 08456 50 50 50.
What other equipment is affected by switchover?
After switchover, analogue recorders will still be able to play tapes and discs but will need to be connected to a digital television or one which has been converted with a digital box in order to record programmes. Analogue recorders will also lose their independent recording function, i.e. they will only be able to record the digital channel being watched. Viewers updating their recording equipment are recommended to look for a digital DVD recorder or a digital TV recorder which stores programmes on a hard disk and can pause or rewind live TV.
The Freeview signal will be improved at switchover in each region to make it less susceptible to interference and picture break-up. Some early digital televisions and digital boxes – in particular ON Digital (and ITV Digital) devices – are not compatible with this signal. Owners of affected digital boxes are advised to replace them with a product carrying the ‘digital tick’. Affected televisions can be upgraded using a digital box. A list of affected products is available at www.digitaluk.co.uk/2kequipment.
Do I need HD TV equipment for switchover?
No. There’s no need to buy HD equipment for digital switchover. Viewers choosing to do so should make sure it carries the ‘digital tick’ logo. HD services are currently available on satellite and cable.
What help is available?
There is a range of switchover help available. Digital UK co-ordinates public information campaigns in each region during the lead up to switchover. It also operates a helpline (08456 50 50 50), website (www.digitaluk.co.uk) and postcode checker which lets you know about the digital television services available in your area.
Digital UK also works with a range of organizations which provide information about digital television to consumers. They include broadcasters, digital platform operators, retailers and local authorities. In addition, it has formed a partnership with a consortium of national charities, including Age Concern and Help the Aged, which will provide information and advice to people who might need some extra help. For more information about the Switchover Help Scheme, visit www.helpscheme.co.uk
Which TV channels are available on Freeview?
Switchover will make extend Freeview coverage to 98.5% of UK households (the same as analogue coverage today). Channel availability depends on where you live and the type of transmitter you get your signal from. Virtually all households will receive the five main terrestrial services – availability of other channels is subject to change.
Viewers can check the services available in their area by using the postcode checker at
www.digitaluk.co.uk, or by calling the Digital UK helpline on 08456 505050.