/ Technology

The digital TV switchover – a very mixed reception

Digital switchover van

At midnight tonight, Northern Ireland will be the final UK region to switch to digital TV, completing the UK’s £630m digital switchover programme. So how did you get on? All set up with digital telly?

More than 650,000 homes in Northern Ireland will switch to the new service tonight, bringing 50 years of analogue TV services to a close. And that’s a wrap; analogue TV is no more, with the good old Ceefax waving farewell along with it.

So, was the switchover a piece of cake, or was it fraught with difficulties? Let’s have a look at some of the experiences you’ve shared with us.

Dancing digital TV channels

Some have had a trouble-free time, like GillyGloucs:

‘We got Freeview set-top boxes so we could still use our old sets and not have to go to the expense of buying new TVs. We do get some signal problems from time to time and now we’re digi, we can get Channel 5 for the first time. Not sure how much of a bonus that is!’

Others had mixed blessings, including N Gawe:

‘Our Sony TV has had no problems – no retuning required or loss of channels. On the other hand, our second TV (Philips) has had no end of problems – daily retuning is required otherwise channels get lost and move to odd channel numbers. Only BBC1/2/3/4 actually “stay put”. Very frustrating.’

PeterW has also suffered problems with his channels:

‘We often ended up with the Welsh channels being selected as our primary ones. Although this could usually be manually corrected, we had major issues with getting the correct C4. Of course, any auto-retune meant starting again!’

Fed up with the digital switchover ‘aggro’

And then there are those who have had a pretty rubbish time, like the aptly-named ‘Fedup.com’

‘We have had zero channels since the second phase of the switchover. I re-scan several times a day and still nothing. Totally and utterly fed up with it all.’

Switching to digital was no fun for Peter Jones:

‘It was an unwanted pain in the ****. As an over-70 but under-75 year old I didn’t qualify for any assistance. I lost BBC2 signal for a couple of weeks and assumed that either the hand-me-down set-top box given me by my son didn’t work or there was a problem with my aerial. None of the provided help leaflets, web pages etc. were any good (except the Ceefax page that checks your aerial). Fortunately I didn’t rush to spend any money and magically, after completion of switchover the digi-box sprang into life and I now get all Freeview channels, which is some consolation for all the aggro.’

Ciao Ceefax – you shan’t be missed

Ah yes, Ceefax. After 38 years, Ceefax is now finally bowing out. But Par Ailleurs won’t miss it:

‘I used (note the past tense) to love Ceefax. But then again I used to think that a Morris Minor was a sensible car, cassette tapes were a brilliant invention and video recorders were great. That says it all really. Who can forget the thrill of wanting to check the travel news before setting out? Each page took about 15 seconds to change and you didn’t necessarily want to read anything on every one of them. Let’s face it there are only a few die-hards who mourn the passing of analogue TV. Ceefax is the same. Bye bye; it was nice knowing you!’

Finally, our thoughts are with Jacquie in Northern Ireland, who will be making her way to her parent’s house tomorrow for the final retuning:

‘I live in Northern Ireland and our switchover is happening on 10 and 24 October. I have two elderly parents and this has been a nightmare for them and a bigger one for me trying to sort them out. They signed up to the help scheme, which has turned out to be hopeless. It is only to sort out the bedroom TV and the reception is very bad.

‘Now I have to go up to their house on both dates early before I go to work to retune their downstairs TV, as they cannot comprehend that. Wish me luck for the next few weeks because I may end up in an asylum.’

Oh dear, hopefully the digital TV switchover hasn’t been such a nightmare for you.


lousy reception in most area of house, a rubbish system

Since the switchover we have had terrible problems with our signal. We have all the right equipment that has been checked and when it works it is very good but most nights the picture breaks up, especially on the BBC Channels so it is unwatchable. Even when we have recorded a programme and then settled down to watch it or the next episode of a serial it starts to break up and then freezes. We are constantly re-tuning. I spoke to the BBC about this and basically they couldn’t care less. Why, when a BBC Channel is doing its usual break up we can get ITV. This has riuned our viewing.

I’d like to describe the result in one word….but Which?’s profanity filter would change it to ****.

Absolutely agree with michael and Sue above.

Biggest problem is that the TV and DVD recorder (both digital receivers, no set top box involved) continually demand re-tuning, and by continual I mean you switch on, allow it to retune, and less than 5 mins later up pops a message saying retuning required.

Kermit, who’s been posting on another related convo, has made some helpful suggestions, but they have not worked. Panasonic, who are the makers of both items, are not interested and the limit of their help has been “never unplug or switch off your set and it should be ok”. This is neither practical or safe and nor does it work.

As soon as there is any wind or fog the signal just completely disappears.

I would not mind quite so much if I didn’t live less than 2 miles as the crow flies form the local transmitter, in line of sight of the transmitter and with no obstacles like trees in the signal path form the transmitter to my aerial (which is, by the way, new, professionally fitted and tested as correctly installed by two engineers).

Never mind – at least no matter what else happens, More 4 seems to be failsafe, so if I am ever so bored that I can’t think of anything else in the world to do, I can always watch endless repeats of Come Dine With Me and Grand Designs.

We are all of six or seven miles from Crystal Palace but because we live in a valley we rely on a local repeater. We get a small subset of what’s available, just ten of the entertainment channels, two kids’ and two news. If we lived half a mile away up the hill we’d be in line of sight of Crystal Palace and get the full works, 42 entertainment channels, three kids’ and six news.

I can only imagine that it isn’t worth spending too much on such local dead spots involving a few hundred houses, indeed we never did get Channel 5 in analogue days and the transmitter can go off for ages until someone gets round to fixing it.

Unsurprisingly Sky and Virgin make a decent living round here.

Kev W says:
26 October 2012

I live in an area with steep sided valleys on the edge of the cotswolds, and we have the same problem. We receive TV from a local repeater, which seems particularly vulnerable to power cuts, digital radio is also a non-starter as is cable. We will NEVER be able to receive these digital signals because we’re “not commercially viable”. The answer, as per my previous post, is satellite; 100% national digital coverage is what the government should have insisted on when it planned to sell off all the analogue bandwidth. Satellite is the ONLY method to achieve this.

Kev W says:
26 October 2012

The ONLY way to get national digital coverage without issues of topography affecting the signal is via satellite. SKY’s competitors should have taken the satellite route took years ago. Murdoch bit the bullet and spent big money up front to get a top quality service which has the biggest potential customer base. (there must be half a million expats in europe who have SKY via a UK address)

I must admit to disliking Mr Murdoch intensely, but SKY is far and away the best TV/radio distibution platform, that’s why I’m a SKY customer. Can you imagine NOT having a PVR or EPG?

You no longer need to subscribe to SKY, just get a free to air channels card from SKY or get Freesat.
Personally I’m looking forward to getting BBC iplayer, 4OD, ITV Player etc.via my Sky+ box in the near future. I don’t have to buy another “catch-up tv” box, or a PVR, so that helps offset my SKY subscription anyway.

par ailleurs says:
26 October 2012

Well I have to say that it all went off without a hitch here in Hampshire. Commiserations to those who are still experiencing problems.
If-and it’s a big if-you can get a decent freeview service then it will be fine for a lot of folk and Sky isn’t necessary unless you want the specialist sports or film channels. If, like me you don’t then freeview gives a superb digital picture and sound and I use it with a built in receiver in the TV and a PVR. That way I can record one channel while watching another or playback while recording.
Now I will admit as a former customer that Sky’s box is superb in its clarity and ease of use but my arrangement isn’t bad at all. Perhaps I have simpler needs but all I really want is the BBC channels, occasionally ITV/Channel4 and Film4. There’s also the bonus of far better radio reception than FM without buying another DAB radio. As for the rest of it, I can say it’s all there but who wants UK top 40, shopping channels and endless re-runs of ancient game shows? Not me for sure but I’m happy to ignore them and use the rest and those who do want it can still make use without extra charge. Every one’s a winner. (Except the previously mentioned unfortunate folk)

John Stark says:
7 November 2012

Digital television is definitely the way forward and there is UK wide support for this. If you are experiencing problems then please do call a specialist as 9 times out of 10 there is something not quite configured and there are great products such as signal boosters and amplifiers to help.