The local TV trade in Copeland has been having a very stressful time as the final switchover to Digital TV on Wednesday 14th November gets ever closer.
Three weeks ago, when the analogue BBC2 signal was switched off for viewers who get their signal from the Bigrigg, Gosforth, and Eskdale transmitters, the national press descended on Whitehaven, and local TV engineers were kept very busy re-tuning TVs and set-top boxes. Shortly thereafter the press decamped but the local issues have continued.
Come Wednesday morning, everyone will have to adjust their set-top boxes and digital televisions. Analogue televisions without a set-top box will become useless except for playing previously recorded programmes.
Most residents of the affected area managed to get their set-top boxes configured without too much difficulty, but the local trade was kept very busy helping people re-tune, and a large group of set-top boxes made by a company known as Access Devices, now renamed Step 1, have caused a particular need for re-tuning.
The box which has caused the main problem, the Matsui TUTV1, and a number of similar products, had been programmed with frequency tables which the main Border transmitter at Caldbeck uses but which are quite different to those on which the Bigrigg transmitter operates.
These set-top boxes have been sold under the Matsui, Daewoo, and Ferguson brands, and because Copeland was the first area to go Digital and consequently had a huge demand for such equipment, a lot of them have found their way here.
When these boxes scan for signals, they look for the digital channels first on the frequencies used by Caldbeck. Some properties in Copeland actually can get a signal from the Caldbeck transmitter, or the Parton/Bleach Green or St Bees transmitters which send out the same signal, and in this case there is no problem. But most of us do not have line of sight to Caldbeck, so when the TUTV1 box looks on the Caldbeck frequencies for the digital channels it doesn't find anything and reports no signal.
What makes this problem worse is that it does not just affect the initial setup: this equipment checks for new channels every so often. When it does, this can have the unfortuate consequence that a set-top box which had been tuned properly can start looking for the Caldbeck frequencies again and the customer loses service until it is re-tuned.
A software patch is being prepared to be broadcast using the engineering channel, but unfortunately this is very unlikely to be available before Christmas: the most probably date for release is the first quarter of 2008. In the meantime there is a local solution which requires a second or third re-tune, and local television engineers have been kept extremely busy doing this.
When the channels change round again on Wednesday 14th, this problem will rear its head again: it is very likely that when searching for the new Digital channel locations, many Matsui, Daewoo, and Ferguson boxes will start looking for the Caldbeck signals all over again and require professional help to re-tune. I know that local telephone suppliers are expecting to be kept very busy on 14th November and the rest of the week sorting this out.
NB - WHAT TO DO IF YOU HAVE A MATSUI, DAEWOO, OR FERGUSON DIGITAL BOX WHICH HAS HAD THIS PROBLEM BUT IS CURRENTLY WORKING.
If the above applies to you, I am advised that the best way to get the extra digital channels which become available on Wednesday 14th November, including the replacements for the remaining analogue channels which are being switched off, is to use the "ADD CHANNEL" option on your box and DO NOT SELECT THE "RESCAN" OPTION.
It's annoying that this is taking so long to sort out, not least because a similar problem with the same equipment was discovered in Wales earlier this year. AS usual local people in Whitehaven and the surrounding towns and villages have been left to pick up the pieces.