TWO WEEKS TO GO until Digital Switchover completes
The BBC2 analogue signal was switched off two weeks ago in the Whitehaven TV area (including most of Copeland) and a range of digital offerings have gone live - more in some parts of the area than others.
All the remaining analogue signals for terrestial TV channels will be turned off two weeks today on 14th November
On analogue televisions which have not yet had a set-top box added, Border TV has moved to the channel where BBC2 used to be, and BBC2 has gone.
Most people who I have spoken to managed without too much difficulty to configure the set-top box on at least their main TV. When this is done the new digital BBC2 is available, and several new digital channels including BBC News 24 and cBBC have also come online. However, an awful lot of people needed to call the TV engineers out to get their set-top boxes tuned. There have been some problems, ironically especially with the more sophisticated boxes.
Some set-top boxes regularly scan for updated signals. Unfortunately some of the most popular top-of-the-range models have been trying to find the Caldbeck transmitter's digital signal, which most of Copeland cannot receive. The Bigrigg tranmitter which is going 100% digital uses different frequencies. Some boxes have been looking on the Caldbeck digital frequencies, not finding anything, and returning "No Signal."
There will be a national solution to this problem - in the first quarter of 2008! In the meantime local engineers have found a way to get and retain service, but it means re-installing.
And the channels will be reconfigured on 14th November, so it looks like the engineers will be even busier on that day.
Of those who have bought a new digital television, I have yet to speak to anyone who had a problem with it. My family replaced one of our oldest televisions with a digital one: when I took it out of the box on 17th October and plugged it in, the new set promptly found a range of digital services including all the BBC channels.
It has been a bit of a time-consuming business, and far from cheap for many people. The support scheme aimed at a pensioner with one TV assumes a cost of around £40. This service is free only for pensioners aged over 75 on pensions credit and disabled or parlially sighted people on disability benefit.
£40 would be enough to cover switchover costs for a home with one TV and no recording facilities if the aerial does not need replacing. But it will not be enough for most people.
A family with four televisions who want to be able to record one channel while watching another would need to spend at the very least £200 on four of the cheapest set-top-boxes and a bottom of the range digital recorder.
A family of arch telly addicts who can afford it could easily spend more than a thousand pounds on new digital TV kit. If you are not a complete TV fanatic but want to get something a bit better than bottom of the range kit, you could easily spend perhaps £500 to £600.
Let me justify that last statement. Suppose you have three TVs. Let's assume you phase out the oldest one and replace it with a small HDD and digital ready TV set, get one middle of the range set top box for your main family TV, and a bottom of the range box for your third TV, and finally buy a mid range digital recorder. That little lot will set you back at least £400 but more probably cost you between £500 and £600.
This assumes that you don't have to get a new aerial, which most people should not need to do, but some people will have to. If you do need a new aerial, get at least two quotes before handing over your hard earned money.
There will also be an added annual cost for viewers in a number of properties with shared aerials: I raised this at the last meeting of Copeland council and we are waiting to hear what the final cost will be.
People in the Gosforth and Eskdale area are going through the same hassle as those of us who live in Whitehaven, but do not get as many new channels in compensation - they don't get Five for instance. If I still lived in Gosforth I would be absolutely furious about this.
People who get their signal from the Parton or St Bees Transmitters can still get the analogue signals for the moment, although they will be affected by Digital Switchover when the rest of the Border TV area goes. The same applies to the Millom area.
Anyone in the Copeland area who is affected by the current switchover and has not already sorted out their TV to receive digital signals would be well advised not to wait until 14th November. I think the engineers will be very busy on that day.
And for people reading this who are not affected yet - digital switchover is coming to you too within the next few years.