Saturday, October 13, 2007

Digital TV Switchover - FOUR DAYS TO GO

With just four days until the BBC2 analogue signal is terminated on Wednesday, Digital UK has stated that they think there could be more than 5,000 households in the affected areas of Copeland who have yet to take any action. If this is true we are heading for a chaotic time in a few days.

I am not a technical expert: those who are tell me that the technical communication surrounding Digital Switchover has not always been brilliant. But my understanding is that on Wednesday 17th October -

1) The Border TV analogue signal will shift to the channel currently used by BBC2.

2) The BBC2 analogue signal will cease to be broadcast

3) A BBC2 Digital signal will start up. Those of us who have tuned their set-top boxes to pick up Channel Five will need to re-tune them to get BBC2.

People who know far more than I do about the technical aspects of TV transmission tell me that it would probably have been a better idea to start Digital Switchover in an area where viewers could already recieve digital terrestial services rather than here where we have to go from 100% analogue to 100% digital in a few weeks. If they were going to start here they should have run both in parallel for a few months, just as BT does with area code changes.

Quite apart from the ongoing issues about shared aerials and whether the qualifications for the Help scheme are broadly drawn enough, I have a number of concerns about how switchover is going. These include:

* In Whitehaven proper we can get Channel Five, which is one of the major benefits for us of the entire exercise, but I am told that many people in central Copeland around Gosforth, Eskdale, and Holmrook will still not get this service at switchover. I'm checking this, but if my information is correct this is grossly unfair - they've been paying for this service for years and are going through the same switchover trauma that is hitting us in Whitehaven. It also means they are denied the opportunity given to the rest of us to check their set top boxes now rather than wait until Wednesday by seeing if they can get Channel Five.

* Most viewers will have to tune or re-tune their set-top boxes two or three times during the switchover process. Many of us have already set them up to receive Channel Five, either because we want that service or to check they're working (which I still think is a good idea.) They will need retuning after the first part of the switchover on Wednesday and again after the final stage on 14th November when the remaining analogue signals are turned off and we go fully digital.

Some people in the local TV trade are worried that some customers will have a problem re-tuning their boxes, and that the number of repeat call-outs later this week and in the week of 14th November may make it very difficult to give a quick service to people who are having trouble getting their televisions to work.

I think this concern may be well founded, which is why I would advise anyone affected by switchover in North Copeland from one of the 5,000 households who have not done anything about switchover to buy a set-top box this weekend, see if you can get Channel five, and as for help on Monday or Tuesday if you can't rather than wait to Wednesday when all the possible sources of help may be somewhat busy.

There are also a lot of salespeople in town pushing various TV deals - for example there are people outside Morrisons and other places in Whitehaven pushing a Sky package. A lot of the bargains on offer appear to be genuinely good offers, but let the buyer beware - don't splash out lots of your hard earned cash on the first good option you see without checking out what else is available.

For instance, there is a new satellite coming on stream next year. Sky may be the right solution for you, but don't rush to sign up to them until you've checked whether another option might be better from next year.

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