/ Technology

The digital TV switchover – how was it for you?

The vast majority of the UK has now gone through the digital TV switchover, with London being the latest area to make the switch. But how was it for you? We want to hear your switching tales of joy or woe.

There are now just two more regions to switch from analogue to digital TV; Tyne Tees on 12 September and Northern Ireland on 10 October.

But if you’ve already gone through the digital switchover, was it a smooth transition?

Even if you were fully prepared, we know that the constant tuning and retuning of your TV can be a right pain. We’ve heard tales of lost channels, boxes that refuse to work and confusing messages popping up on your TV screens.

Ideally you should now have a vast range of shiny new digital channels with an electronic programme guide showing the next seven days’ TV listings and access to digital teletext and interactive red button services. But was it worth the effort and expense?

The expense of switching to digital

The switchover cost me a fair chunk of cash. I needed a new aerial installed and, because I wanted to benefit from the new HD channels, I lashed out on a new TV and PVR, costing me roughly £1,500 in total.

Setting that lot up and having to retune everything twice was a pain too – and I’m supposed to know what I’m doing. But now it’s all done and dusted, I’m very pleased with what I’ve got and the picture quality on the HD channels blows me away.

Still, although I might be happy with the outcome, I know many of you aren’t. A fifth of the people we asked in our recent survey said they experienced some sort of problem during the switchover, whether it was an older set-top box that stopped working, or they were just annoyed by the incessant retuning.

And although I’m happy with the new programmes at my disposal, it’s easy to feel a bit disappointed with the plethora of shopping channels, repeats and shabby ‘adult’ chat lines that make up much of the additional content on offer.

Anyway, was the digital switchover a hit or a miss? Do you think it was a worthwhile exercise that didn’t cause much trouble, or was it a complete pain in the neck that’s just let a load of dross into your living room?


My parents lost signal on the 6th April and again on the 18th. Luckily I was able to talk them through retuning their digiboxs. I just wish they’d gone for Sky, no issues for me 🙂 And they still just watch the old terrestrial channels. Although my dad did ask, So what channel number is the history channel on. Sorry Dad you need to get Sky for that, doh. (FYI I personally wouldn’t touch Virgin with a barge pole.)

P.Scott says:
20 April 2012

Will we ever receive channels 12 and 15 again? (Film 4 and Yesterday)

Robert says:
20 April 2012

Panasonic TVs and DVD recorders are often Which Best Buys. On that basis and over the past six or seven years I have bought a non-digital Panasonic HDD recorder and a digital Panasonic TV. Following the death of my mother I also now have her digital Panasonic DVD recorder. I would like to know if and how I can record digital TV programmes either from the digital TV or digital DVD recorder onto the hard drive of my non-digital HDD recorder. I asked this question at an On-Digital road show but no-one could answer it and I have sent an e-mail to Panasonic giving the actual model numbers of each appliance but have so far not received any reply. I wonder if Dave Holes or any technical whizzkid could point me in the right direction?

Phil says:
21 April 2012

If the analogue HDD recorder has a SCART input it should work. You just need to connect that to the SCART output of the TV or digital HDD recorder and set the analogue device to the appropriate channel, usually AV or AV1/2. I’ve recorded onto a VCR this way.

Ruth says:
22 April 2012

I don’t know if this answers your question, but we bought my elderly mum a non digital Panasonic DVD recorder about five years ago. When the North West switched to digital (one of the first areas to do so) she could no longer use the recorder (with her digital Panasonic TV). We telephoned John Lewis, where we’d bought it, to check. They referred us to Panasonic, who told us it couldn’t be adapted, so we gave it to my brother in Norwich, an area which hadn’t yet switched to digital. We weren’t happy that we’d received no advice initially from John Lewis. Should they have been selling a product which would so soon become redundant?

Main problems for me and those I know are:

1) It seems that the channel list needs to be updated at least once every day since we went digital – a big problem if you have set your recording device for a number of programmes over a period greater than 24 hours

2) Updates appear to be regularly unsuccessful – i.e. you run the update and then, on changing channel directly after completion, a warning pops up saying that a channel update is due.

3) Reception is very poor indeed and in the slightest wind, or moderate rain, it completely disappears.

4) The digital switchover people were / are incompetent:

those who attended a disabled friend’s house sold him a signal booster and a set top box which he did not need as he already had a Freeview enabled TV and DVD recorder. They sold them on the basis that his existing appliances could not get a digital signal. After they fitted the booster and set top box the signal was still too weak for the appliances to receive programmes. My friend told the men that he believed the Aerial cable to be damaged where it passed the house gutter. They replied that they were not insured to go up ladders to look. He paid a Local Aerial company £60 to come out – they confirmed the cable to be damaged, replaced it for a further £15 and now he has good reception most of the time, and a spare set top box and signal booster that are no use.

those who attended my elderly mother told her that there are “No TV’s that are too old to convert” and then sold her a set top box with a SCART plug. Her TV is so old it does not have SCART sockets, as the man soon found out, but he refused to take the set top box away because it had been opened and plugged into the mains, so left her with no TV and a useless set top box she’d had to pay for.

My friend says he can’t be bothered to complain.

My mum wrote to her MP and got no reply. She wrote again 8 weeks later and copied her letter to the local paper. The MP did not reply but he local paper’s “Action Desk” got in touch with Trading Standards an mum eventually got a refund of what she had paid as a “goodwill gesture”, and was told to throw away the surplus set top box. She still has no TV.

I’ll let readers draw their own conclusions as to “how it was for us” ……………

Phil says:
21 April 2012

TVs without SCART sockets simply need the signal routed through an RF Modulator. These are available from Maplin or other outlets online or alternatively the signal can be routed through any VCR that has a SCART lead and an RF output.

Your Mum’s installers really should’ve known that.

Phil says:
21 April 2012

That should read SCART input. Most have.

I have no idea what set up my son has as for main T.V,[ which he now seems to control from his phone] but it was unaffected, as is our bedroom set up.
My study TV is an old 14″ CRT, I haven’t used it in ages, so don’t know if it works, I use catch up TV online to watch anything I need to.

So we haven’t noticed the change at all……

We don’t use Sky or virgin, only freeview channels, Sopcast for [free] pay per view sports & online services for anything else.

I already pay my license fee and have no intention of paying for any other TV services.

Hullo London . . . This is Norfolk calling. Glad to hear the Digital Switchover has caught up with you at last. We had our’s last November. There was plenty of publicity, a helpful woman staffed a caravan in the market place to give advice and guidance, and the local electrical shops handed out loads of leaflets and put up countdown posters. Perhaps they thought the technology would baffle us! Judging by media reaction and articles it all went very well. There have been a few niggles about poorer sound quality on some channels [but I think Anne Robinson sounds distorted at any time] and occasional picture break-up [whenever a helicopter flies across the signal path from the transmitter and in certain weather conditions]. But otherwise it seems to have been a great success technically.
Over the previous two years we had been replacing our old TV’s and FV boxes with new HD-ready, integrated Freeview Digital sets [all Samsung] and a PVR [Humax] and they all converted easily on the two switchover dates. We haven’t had to update the channel list yet, as Dave D reported above, but then we haven’t really used any of the channels outside the main five plus BBC 3 & 4 and Film Four so if they have changed or disappeared we haven’t noticed. We also haven’t watched anything in HD; I would say that following a brief encounter with HD on one programme – switching back and forth to compare picture quality – it didn’t seem to make much difference, the picture quality on the new TV’s is so good anyway.
I tend to agree with Dave Holes that the enlarged content [much of which was available through Freeview beforehand] is pretty dire, but most nights we can’t find much worth watching on the traditional channels either.

Well – I have Virgin and it has been very reliable with superb maintenance – The switch over was undetectable – but have had two one minute glitches since where a few channels were unavailable. I have never been able to get a good terrestrial signal for anything except BBC 1. So as BT was also completely and utterly naff for years both for reception and service – I was the first in my street to sign up to Cable and Wireless – (then NTL then Virgin) when the cable was laid. I have never regretted it – but the quality of ALL programmes on ALL 160 channels is very poor and am thinking of downsizing as EBay DVDs are very cheap to buy and LoveFilm is very cheap to rent..

Some of the TV programmes disappeared following the switchover. Now that iPlayer works so well, that will do me for the time being. I’m a radio listener and TV is not important to me.

Well said Wavechange – and as was said years ago “The pictures are better on radio!”
I only watch BBC1 and BBC2 – I won’t watch other channels due to adverts.

I agree about adverts. When I used to occasionally watch programmes with adverts I would record them beforehand, partly so I could skip through the ads and because I get a lot of phone calls.

I consider that my TV licence fee is to help pay for BBC Radio. 🙂

Hey ! Man after my own heart!!!

Agree wholeheartedly.

Even if all I ever got was Radio 4 it’d worth my tv license fee

I’ve listened to Radio 4 since I was a teenager, though it was called the Home Service back then. I still have a well used Bush transistor radio in good working order, albeit 45 years old.

All we are likely to disagree on is DAB radio. I use this for Radio 4 because it is convenient for pausing and recording programmes. But it’s FM for Radio 3, without a doubt.

I’ve grown up listening to R4 – earliest memories include the last days of “Children’s Hour” and the first ever edition of “PM” with William Hardcastle. Sunday’s brought”the world this weekend” with Brian Widlake.
I’d not object to DAB if it was better sound quality (even for talk radio – The Archers needs to sound real, not like an echo chamber!) and if, like the topic of this convo, Digital TV, it didn’t suffer from continuous drop-out. I also get frustrated that Digital is not real-time – the time signal on Analogue is a full 45 seconds before the one on DAB.
I’m not a huge R3 listener, but my mum is (and indeed was influential in getting the BBC to reverse some scheduling and presenter employment issues on R3 back in the mid 90’s) – but I agree that DAB for classical music is absolutely unacceptable.

We’re digressing and will get told off if we are not careful!

I can always rely on you for a bit of nostalgia, Dave.

Although I can record on my old hard disk recorder from my old set-top box, it is a bit of a performance and I might invest in one a HDR or PVR with a digital tuner and keep my present TV which has better speakers than more modern offerings. For when there is nothing worth listening to on the radio, of course. 🙂

Hi both, please stay on topi… actually there’s nothing wrong with a bit of nostalgia. One thing I like about digital is that all of the DAB radio stations are available on my TV.

And on the topic of nostalgia, we’ll soon have a post up about Ceefax and how many of us miss it.

I am not surprised that many people have taken the easy way out and simply replaced their equipment to cope with the digital TV switchover.

Some of my ramblings are just about on topic. I don’t know how best to proceed after losing some TV programmes following the switchover. More seriously, I can no longer use my analogue hard disk recorder for timed recordings. All the DAB radio stations have disappeared too, following the switchover. I suppose I should look through back issues of Which? for inspiration.

I admit to multiple other offences of taking topics off-topic. 🙂

Talking about the topic of whether your comments are on- or off-topic is in danger of taking the discussion of this topic widely off-topic. 🙂

As for the switchover – all fine on my end. My mum did have trouble with retuning and lots of messages asking to retune (on dates different to those advertised). The main problem is that your TV may tell you to retune, but without an easy button to press, or instructions how to, retuning is not necessarily as easy as you might think it is for those who aren’t tech savvy.

Interesting: Patrick says there will soon be a post about Ceefax and who misses it. This implies that it is no longer operating …. and as anyone will guess from me saying that, I have missed it so little that I didn’t even notice it had gone!!!!! When did that happen then?

Yes, some people won’t miss it at all. When analogue goes, so does Ceefax.

Inspired by your reminder that teletext will become history as a result of the digital switchover, here is a link to a teletext museum website.

I remember seeing Orbit, the BBC2 teletext service, on a friend’s TV.

N Gawe says:
22 April 2012

In Oxford, and we have had a very mixed experience. Our Sony TV has had no problems – no retuning required or loss of channels. This is wonderful but we tend to watch Sky more often on it as it’s the main TV.
On the other hand, our second TV (Philips) has had no end of problems – daily and more often retuning is required otherwise channels get lost and move to odd channel numbers (e.g. ITV1 is now on channel 373, Channel 4 is on about 360 and so on). Only BBC1/2/3/4 actually “stay put”. Very frustrating. We tried setting up “favourites” to avoid losing position but that hasn’t worked either.
Apparently, the success of the switchover is very brand-dependent.

Did I misread the television on screen instructions concerning need and date for retuning? I interpreted the advice as ‘retune between 4th and 18th April’. So I retuned after midnight on 4th April. Excellent no problems BBC/ITV channels running fine. Come 18th April no ITV channels! What do you know we had to retune on the 18th as well!! Oh! Peoples’ faces now look more ruddy. Hope it doesn’t signify a problem with the TV. That would be just great!

I dont remember all this concern,surveys, national adverts etc when we went digital in the far NW (of England) a couple of years or so ago.
But now its the “South” being affected ………

GillyGloucs says:
27 April 2012

The switch seemed to be relatively trouble-free for us. We got Frerview set-top boxes so we could still use our old sets and not have to go to the expensive of buying new TVs. We do get some signal problems from time to time and now we’re digi, we can get Ch 5 for the first time. Not sure how much of a bonus that is!

Overall, we have found that going digital hasn’t actually given us access to many more stations. We can new view BBC3 and 4 and a couple of the catch-up stations, but that’s about it. It would be nice if we could get more – I think the pre-switchover publicity was rather misleading in that respect, in the it implied people would have access to LOTS more channels. Sadly, it seems as if we’re still poor relations when it comes to access…..

Switchover went reasonably well, but numerous retunings required. Picture no different to previous analogue and HD no different to standard digital (on a Panasonic best buy set). However, signal quality is very variable, especially in bad weather, with blocking very prevalent. Overall is digital better – NO – picture quality not as good generally and most of the new stations are poor in content. Lets hope we are not forced to endure digital radio – all we need is Radio 5 Live on FM.

AJP says:
27 April 2012

Had no problem with Switchover. My older Pansonic DVD/HD recorder and Sony Bravia TV were no problem to retune on both dates. However I’m very technically minded when it comes to electronic equipment. Also retuned equipment for two elderly relatives WHO WOULD NEVER HAVE COPED on their own. Managed those fine as well. Only problem was finding my way round the on-screen settings menu of a very new Sony TV, and finding the password to access the settings of a very new Sony HD recorder. We all get the same Freeview channels as before. Good reception – no need for new aerials!

Col says:
27 April 2012

West Somerset coast area can have a problem with some TV’s that insist on tuning into Wenvoe the Welsh transmitter and not Mendip transmitter. This is because the Welsh transmitter is line of sight directly across the Bristol Channel. This results is welsh area news and welsh S4C and not channel 4.

It can be sorted out but as AJP noted it is not easy for some non tec.people. I also find Sony menu on old and new sets a bit strange.

Reception is first class provided aerial and co-ax is in good condition,should be no need to renew aerial.

Advice to old people; act now. Here in TyneTees we are waiting for switchover, but the nice people at the switchover help scheme have already done our kitchen set by converting it to satellite at very reasonable cost. It is an HD ready 19″ and the Freesat option seems to free us from the many predicted retunes in September.

We have only loft aerials, and opted for the most expensive option, a Freesat+ HD dual tuner recorder; total cost including dish and wiring £236. A simple box and dish would have been £60. It was installed on time and took about two hours.

We now look forward to switchover with only our main CRT set to retune and the security of two different systems, if one goes down the other should work. The bonus is that as we live on a borderline, we can choose where our local news comes from.

Peter Jones says:
27 April 2012

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..

Michael J Gilmartin says:
27 April 2012

I stay in Peebles in the Scottish Borders and moved from Edinburgh (25miles north of Peebles) and get approx 38 digital tv and radio channels. including 2 gay rabbit which I dont want.Edinburgh gets more than 100 additional channels than here. I find this incredulous and most unfair.Again another rip off.

Switchover went fine on my main set. However, I have a second set, with an indoor aerial, which gave me a good picture on digital channels before switchover. When I tried to retune it with the aerial in the same position (and later many others), it would not find any channels. As it was an oldish set weighing a ton, fed by a digital box of similar age, I have taken the easy but expensive option of junking both and buying a new lightweight set. I also bought a Which Best Buy Humax PVR with Freeview HD, because the old video recorder would no longer record. I’m still trying to find a way of watching my old video tapes. I’ve tried using the TV scart link to my video recorder but that hasn’t worked so far.
General issues:-
1. You can’t watch programmes in real time any more. A while back, my neighbours were watching a football match on analogue, while I was watching it on digital. Suddenly I heard a roar from them and several seconds later I saw the goal scored on mine. I can’t get quite so enthusiastic now, knowing that I am watching “history”. OK, the finite speed of light meant that, even on the analogue, it was still “history” but at least it was almost live. HD is slower still.
2. As someone mentioned earlier, digital radio is also “slow”. A late time signal is not much help to anyone!
3. I am still getting the instruction to retune, which I regularly have to clear from the screen. It’s getting to be quite a pain in the posterior!
4. My main set is a Samsung, which has enhanced pictures anyway. I find that most of the time HD is not much different.

PeterW says:
27 April 2012

We moved some time back being in the NW. The only problem being that when tuning 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! My solution was to switch off notification of any new channels, clear out out all channels ( unplugged aerial and did auto tune) and then manually added only those from correct transmitter. Then not touch it again!