/ 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?

TonyD says:
28 April 2012

I’ve been digital for years, first with a set top box then a PVR, and think the technology is great. The problem I encountered was an elderly neighbour who already had a digital TV but had no idea about retuning. Obviously I helped her but there must have been many in her situation who would have had nobody to turn to as the official help provided for the switchover was only available to people who just had old analogue sets and not to those who already had digital sets.

Most of the conversation so far seems to be about retuning and converting existing equipment to digital. This wasn’t a problem for me – that was all well prepared for and went smoothly.

My problem was a peculiar one. In my kitchen I had an old portable black and white 5″ TV which I bought at Woolworths (remember them?) for £10 about 30 years ago. It had a lousy picture (with an indoor aerial) but I only used it to listen to the sound of the program I was watching in the living room, while I worked in the kitchen. As I have no aerial connection in the kitchen, the switchover meant that I would lose my kitchen TV, because a digital one wouldn’t work with an indoor aerial. There’s no such thing as a poor digital signal – you either get a signal or you don’t.

The solution was complex. My modern digital TV in the lounge has an optical sound output which can feed a surround sound system, so I bought online from Singapore a small surround sound decoder for £35, and from Amazon I bought a little MP3 transmitter which is normally used to connect an MP3 player wirelessly to a car stereo, which cost £8.

I connected the decoder to the TV optical output, and the MP3 transmitter to the decoder. In the kitchen I tuned in an old FM transistor radio to the frequency I’d set on the transmitter…

…and BINGO! I get better sound in the kitchen than I got from the cr–py old TV!

And as a bonus, I also managed to improved the rather impoverished sound from my super-thin flat LED TV by connecting an active sub-woofer speaker to the decoder as well.

Dave D says:
6 May 2012

Until this convo cropped up I’d never really noticed exactly how often I have to retune – I just knew it was so often as to be a real pain.

I’ve kept a note over the last 2 weeks though, and it is utterly ludicrous. I don’t always have the telly on every day, so the dates below miss out days that I never had the telly on at all.

April 21st – TV and DVD recorder both needed retuning.
April 22nd – TV needed retuning. Did not have DVD on at all.
April 24th – TV OK but DVD needed retuning.
April 25th – TV needed retuning. Later turned DVD on and retuned. Switched TV to DVD input and TV promptly demanded to be retuned again.
April 26th – neither device argued.
April 27th – Set DVD to record programme from BBC3. Programme did not record. DVD and TV both needed retuning.
April 30th – TV needed retuning. Did so. After watching a prog switched off. Switched back on later and it demanded retuning again.
May 1st – TV did NOT need retuning, but DVD recorder did.
May 2nd – no retuning!!
May 5th – TV and DVD both needed retuning.
May 6th – TV and DVD both needed retuning.

I’m not sure what the benefit of constantly shifting the channels is supposed to be, but I’m not finding it beneficial!

“I’m not sure what the benefit of constantly shifting the channels is supposed to be, but I’m not finding it beneficial!”

They’re not constantly shifting the channels – you probably live in a borderline area between two or more transmitters and your equipment can’t decide which to link to. At the switchover transmitter signal strength was boosted and you are likely receiving signals from transmitters which weren’t visible to your machinery before.

You need to go to Digital UK and find out which is your local transmitter and manually tune your devices to it, and then you won’t miss programs in future.

Dave D says:
7 May 2012

@Kermit – many thanks for this very useful information.

My transmitter is Sheffield (Crosspool) and it is less than 1 mile away from me as the crow flies, on the peak of a hill and I am on the peak of the next hill, with a depvalley between. I can see the transmitter clearly from my upstairs and downstairs windows and the Aerial is roof mounted and points directly at the transmitter.

The next nearest is Emley Moor, which can be seen on a clear day from the top of the road, but is ‘over the hill’ from my house.

Until switchover I could watch TV without the aerial plugged in without any trouble at all as the Crosspool signal was so clear here.

I will look at Digital UK and see what it has to say about the strength of Crosspool and Emley Moor now.


Dave D says:
8 May 2012

Got round to looking at Digital UK and according to them I am on Crosspool – which I knew – and no other.

Ironically, whilst Iw as looking at Digital UK on the laptop, the TV popped up a warning that the channels needed updating …… but the Digital UK website says that no updates are due today or tomorrow.

It’ll be interesting to hear whether your manual retune has solved your problems.

Dave D says:
9 May 2012

Sadly, no. Came home today, popped telly on, and there we go “New channels found, press Exit to ignore or OK to retune”. Pressed Exit and got “No signal”. Retuned, ok for now.

It’s a flaming pain in the posterior and cannot be right.

As a Chartered IT Professional and an electrician to boot I would like to think that it is not me that is making crass mistakes, but I am seriously wondering if it is.

Did you MANUALLY re-tune? I get the feeling that you’re doing auto re-tunes, which will not solve your problems. This was the purpose of my original reply to you.

I looked up your Crosspool transmitter and the following is a link to the Digital UK generic manual re-tune instructions and the channels you need to tune to –


Your equipment manuals will also have manual re-tune instructions and you can follow them together with the channel info on the above Digital UK page.

Remember, the operative words for this exercise are “MANUAL RE-TUNE”!

To further clarify the reasons for all this, as I said in my original reply the transmitter signal strength has been boosted and your equipment is probably seeing transmitters it didn’t see before.

The Crosspool transmitter is relatively low strength, and although YOU know that it’s your local transmitter, your devices don’t, and this is the reason that they have to be manually pointed in the right direction (figuratively speaking).

Dave D says:
9 May 2012

Thanks again for your advice and explanations.

In answer to your first question, YES, I did MANUALLY re-tune, following the instructions on the web page to which you sent a link.

I noted, when I did so, that the Signal Strength and Signal Quality indicators indicated 100% for groups 1, 2 & 4, 100% strength but only about 75% quality for groups 3 & 5, and less than 10% strength with about 40% quality for the HD group 6 – which doesn’t bother me as I don’t have a HD TV, don’t want one and have never tried watching an HD channel.

Whilst reading your responses this evening another thought crossed my mind, which links to several other convo’s about fire hazards, appliance safety, energy saving and build quality: I unplug the telly and DVD when not in use. I am well aware that neither has a proper off switch which disconnects the mains, ergo both are fire hazards, waste energy and and permanently on a form of standby if the plug is not withdrawn.

I wonder if my Panasonic TV and DVD are deliberately made to try to con users into leaving them on, wasting power, by resetting to auto tuning mode whenever they have been switched off properly?

If so, tough: I’ll just have to put up with the retuning (or more likely, as I use the TV much less than the radio, stop watching TV altogether!) as I’m not falling into the trap of wasting power and hosting a fire hazard just to stop retuning messages.

With regard to your 2nd post – relative signal strengths – yes, I was aware of Crosspool’s comparatively low output. Without an Aerial installer’s test meters I’m not sure how else I could find out what other signal(s), if any, are strong enough to pick up or to ‘over-shadow’ Crosspool’s, but given the huge hills in the area, and my proximity to Crosspool with no obstacles between, I’d be quite surprised if any others are all that strong at my aerial position?

Apologies for assuming you weren’t manually re-tuning. The fact that Crosspool is low strength is not an issue. It’s your transmitter and you don’t need to look elsewhere for a more powerful one. Also, you don’t need 100% signal strength and quality to get a good picture. As long as you’re happy with the picture you get (when it works!), that isn’t a problem.

Panasonic devices (I’ve had a few) usually have an energy-saving set-up option with which you decide whether you want them to go into standby or ‘off’ when they’re switched off. The downside is that they take longer to come on. They will not auto update if you do this and will probably need re-tuning as a consequence if you have set them up this way. If you pull the plug at night, they’ll definitely need frequent re-tuning. (I don’t understand what you mean when you imply that Panasonic is trying to con users).

Dave D says:
9 May 2012


Re “con users” – by this I refer simply to the labelling of the switch as “On/off” when what they really mean is “ON/STANDBY” – the subject of a whole other Which? convo about all appliances, and on which many contributors pointed out that there is no reason for appliances to “forget” settings (e.g. tuning settings) when unplugged as they could be fitted with suitable RAM / ROM and a small CMOS type battery, just like PC’s always have been.

Making the appliance WITHOUT such ‘memory’ is just a way to “con” users in to leaving them plugged in, using power, no matter how little.

Brad says:
10 May 2012

Since the switch over we have been unable to view any channels on our second TV in the bedroom. We have a sky plus box (white one) in the lounge connected to the main TV which works fine and experienced no problems with this during the switch over. Previously before the switchover we could watch TV in the bedroom because we ran a aerial from the sky box in the lounge to the back of the TV in the bedroom. The picture on the TV in the bedroom was basically a mirror image of the TV downstairs in the lounge. We have checked the connections, even bought a new TV aireal but the second TV refuses to show a picture and simply shows a blue screen displaying a message that says no satelite signal.
We rang sky to find out if they knew why it no longer works and they said they could not determine whether this is due to the switch over. The only way to view sky upstairs is to upgrade to multi room which we neither need or really want especially as it will cost so much more to upgrade.
Has anyone else encountered the same problem? Any tips on how to get around this annoying problem are greatly appreciated.

It sounds as though you’re viewing two separate systems. The switchover involved only digital terrestrial TV (ie Freeview) and not your Sky Plus box, which doesn’t operate from an aerial (unless you mean a dish). If you have an aerial, it’s probably connected to your bedroom TV and not to Sky. In this case your bedroom TV was receiving Freeview and needs re-tuning.

If you only watched Sky, the switchover was irrelevant to you, and is not the reason for your bedroom TV problem.

I think you’ll find you were just lucky to get the TV in your bedroom to mirror the main TV. But as there’s now no analgoue signal, that’s were you problems comes from. I’ve you been with Sky a long time you can always ring them and ask about their loyalty discounts, I did (I’ve had them almost 12 years now) and got 25% off for a year (its not much but every little helps). That could cover the cost of multi room for you. Your only other option is to get a freeview box for the TV in your bedroom, but depending on your external ariel that may not work and you wouldnt get the same sky channels

My change over was so flawless I didn’t really notice.
Now the problems start: I have had dozens of calls from my tenants, all with the same problem, the aerials which up till now have been trouble free, are not picking up the signal.
They have obtained the boxes, or Tvs with digital capabilities and many just will not receive the signal. Those on cable & satellite are OK, but I have many tenants on benefits who just cannot afford sky, virgin etc.. and rely on good old terrestrial TV.
Have you any idea what it costs to install new aerials, and for buildings over 4 stories the costs are prohibitive.
I am wondering if there is any way of reclaiming these costs from those responsible for the switchover?

If the aerials were trouble-free prior to the switchover, and assuming your tenants were watching digital (Freeview) channels then, they should be getting as good, or even better, reception now. This is because a lot of transmitters had their signal strength boosted following the analogue switch-off.

If however they were tuned to analogue channels then, and have only now attempted to explore digital, they’re late at the start of a steep learning curve. I believe you’ll find most of those having teething troubles can sort them out at no extra expense using online resources such as Digital UK.

It’s like dealing with primary school children, if there is one thing today’s benefit society is teaching it’s dependency: I have now got a man who will go and visit each tenant in turn, check the tuning etc…
I should levy a small charge for this service, but quite frankly cannot stand the hassle.

Thanks you, your advice has saved me £££s.
My man has now visited all the complaining tenants and sorted thier TVs out.
He reported the problems as being laziness & stupidity.

Delighted to hear it. Wilful ignorance probably keeps the country’s tradespeople in business.

Pet50 says:
11 June 2012

Our switchover seems to have gone fairly well. had to retune a few times but seems settled now.
I have a Philips tv with freeview. Can’t get the interactive services through BBC. I understand that Teletext/Ceefax have gone with analogue, so assumed I could access all i would need through the red button services. can anyone help? the manual for the tv is of little use!!

@Pet50, Have you tried Freeview channel 105 I think thats where the BBC have hidden their red button stuff.

ernie walker says:
20 June 2012

I bought a Panasonic TV and Panasonic DVD/VCR recorder from Comet in February Tape cassette would not stay in so Comet collected and repaired..2 weeks ago couldn’t get ITV and 4’5 channels on recorder..no bother on TV so took recorder to Comet they checked it all channels on.advised to check signal condition when I get home,this I done found very poor quality and still no picture when using recorder,picture still okay on TV,,,thinking about installing an Aerial Booster has anyone received same or similar problem …

If the signal on the TV is ok and the video is supposed to be working out, it sounds like you live in an area which is “benefiting” from more than one signal and your video is picking up the first (and not necessarily the best) it can find. Try manually tuning your video to see if there are other stronger signals available.
Good luck.

Tony says:
21 June 2012

Since re-tuning my Philips TV on digital switchover the red button has stopped working.
It was working OK befor .
I phoned philips but hung up after waiting a long time for someone to answer.

A quick Google search often finds the answer to problems. Try restoring factory settings:


Best of luck.

The link I have given probably does not relate to your TV, even though it refers to your problem. Just include your model number in a Google search and you will probably find exactly what you need. Whether it’s a problem with a car, washing machine or computer, someone will have had the same problem and may have put the answer on a website, though it’s best to start with the manufacturer’s own website.

Tony says:
22 June 2012

Phoned Philips got through quick but was told that my Freeview HD/TV needs a software update by a TV engineer this will be costly and that it would be cheaper to buy a digi box

My TV picks up all freeview channels but the red button stopped working thanks to the changover .

Tried to google for the software to see if I could download and install myself but no joy.

FEdup.com says:
4 July 2012

We have had zero channels since the 2nd phase of the switchover. We have a BT vision box which worked fine for the first part of the switch over and now we have nothing. I rescan several times a day and still nothing and have no idea who to ask for help after spending hours looking at forums and discussions. Totally and utterly fed up with it all. We had a new ariel system fitted a few years back which should be able to cope and there are no reported problems in the area. Am bored, bored, bored with the whole thing.

What did BT say?

Tony says:
4 July 2012

Lost the red button channel after changeover so phoned Philips up to resolve and they told me that I needed a engineer to call and load new software to my Philips TV.
My TV has freeview built in,the red button worked before I re-tuned it is also HD ready.

This will be chargeable and cost me more than a new TV. He stated or that it would be better to buy a freeview box !!! as it would be cheaper than buying a new TV.

So I need a free view box to get all freeview channels on a freeview TV

If you need new software you can probably download it from the Philips website and install it yourself. There’s no need for an engineer.

Tony says:
4 July 2012

Searched the web including Philips download site, asked the the technician for over the air update or where I could get the software from, he told me this is not available to me.
As the TV is 4 years old there’s no quick fix. except at a cost that’s more than the TVs worth.

Doing a software update on a TV might not be as easy as updating a computer, which are designed to be updated on a regular basis. This may be why no download is available and specialist attention is needed. It that is the issue, then at least it should have been explained to you.

A lot depends on whether Philips had been given details of exactly what changes would be made when the switchover occurred. If so, they have sold you a TV that is not fit for the purpose. If not then it is difficult to blame this or any other company whose products fail to work properly after the change.

If you cannot live with the problem then a Freeview box offers a cheap solution.

4 years old isn’t very old. I take it your TV isn’t listed on this site –


I’ve not taken a huge interest in this issue as I watch so little TV and in reality only ever watch BBC1, BBC 2 and a little bit of Channel 4. On the rarest occasions I watch More 4.

But that’s not the point: my Panasonic TV and DVD are boyth a nightmare since switchover, even though they seemed reasonably OK before.

Other posters (Kermit included) have suggested to me before that I need to manually tune rather than use the auto tune feature: this does not work. IN the case of the TV manual tuning appeared to work ok on the day that I did it, but once switched off at the wall the TV reverted to auto-tune mode and keeps telling me it needs to be re-tuned multiple times per day. The TV was new less than 18 months ago when the dates of the switchover were already well publicised. After earlier discussions with Kermit on here I contacted Panasonic and they tell me that my TV is behaving perfectly properly and that the only way to avoid the issue is to manually tune an then NEVER unplug the set, only leave it in standby mode.

To do so would be a fire hazard and very wasteful of electricity (in use the set is claimed to consume 56W of electricity – which is 12 w more than my previous Hitachi CRT set, even though this set is a 2″ smaller screen size – and in standby the set is claimed to use 5W of electricity, this may be little but given I probably only watch for an hour or so a day at the very most it means I’d be using more in standby than I ever do in use, and this is why I made my comment weeks ago on here about Panasonic “conning” me – they are conning me (or trying to) into using and paying for electricity that I need not be using, by making my life very inconvenient if I refuse to leave the set in standby wasting electricity.

Turning now to the DVD, a similar situation exists. If I switch off at the wall , or leave the DVD in “low power standby” the Manual tune memory is lost and it reverts to auto-tune mode. I’ve also checked this out with Panasonic and they say this is correct. This means that I need to leave the DVD in a mode which uses just over 12w of power in order to avoid the continual and repetitive retuning.

I have a triple-complaint here:
1) we should not have ‘gone digital’ to start with – the signal is inferior, it often drops out in poor weather (of which we’ve had plenty this year) and it’s given rise to all the issues discussed on the convo;
2) it is unspeakably immoral that manufacturers (e.g. Panasonic) should deliberately make their equipment so that it won’t operate sensibly without constantly draining power and also being a fire risk;
3) it’s crazy (but after the “washing machine incident” it doesn’t surprise me) that modern equipment uses more power than older equipment to start with.

Oh well, rant over ….. I’ll go back to the wireless – FM only!!!!!

As I’m sure you are well aware, there is more than one way of retaining information in memory without consumption of any power. It is inexcusable bad design to produce equipment that wastes electricity. Thank goodness that Panasonic (and other manufacturers of TVs) don’t make cars, or we would be expected to leave the engines running overnight.

Tony says:
5 July 2012

I agree with Dave D digital is inferior to analog in my case.
so I’ve decided to throw in the towel

Barbara says:
29 August 2012

My Mother in law has a Panasonic Viera digital TV and recently BBC 1 and 2 keep losing the signal – message comes up ‘No Signal’. Panasonic say there is nothing wrong with the TV it is a porblem with the broadcaster and they are in negotiations with them regarding this matter. They tell us to re-tune after about a week when the problem should be resolved. We have a digital Samsung TV and a non digital TV with a Humax digi box/recorder and both are working O.K. Has anyone else heard of this problem or are we being fobbed off?

@ Barbara – my opinion is that you are being fobbed off.

I have a Panasonic Viera TV and a Panasonic Viera DVD Recorder too.

In both cases when they have been switched off at the wall (which I do every night unless the DVD is set to record) they always insist on needing me to retune. Panasonic’s “Nohelp” line can only tell me that “this isn’t supposed to happen but we suggest leaving them permanently plugged in”, which I won’t do for reasons of electricity economy and fire safety.

They did, however, suggest that the DVD was switched to the “super standby” mode, in which it even switches off the display when not in use. I’ve tried this and the result is that when I come to switch on again it displays “GUIDE” – meaning that a retune is required – and it has “locked up” which can only be released by switching off at the wall, so “Super Standby” is no more use than unplugging.

HOWEVER – the significant point that’s relevant to you, Barbara, is that when I asked the “Nohelp” line about the “GUIDE” issue, they tried to tell me that this was also to do with the broadcast signal in my area ….. that was over 12 months ago and nothing has changed.

Based on that experience I’d say that you are probably being fobbed off.

Kermit might have a view – he has been very helpful on here and made some very helpful suggestions to me, though sadly Panasonic’s technology defeated several of them.

Barbara, this is not necessarily a conspiracy by the big nasty manufacturer (Panasonic) against the poor consumer, but simply a technical matter of your TV not being tuned to the correct transmitter. If you browse earlier in this thread, you’ll find guidance on doing a manual re-tune of the TV to connect to the correct transmitter. It doesn’t take an expert to do it, just someone willing to follow instructions. The starting place should be Digital UK where you can get information about which transmitter you should be tuned to, and generic instructions on how to do it.

The fact that your other equipment does connect correctly is a sign that it discriminates differently and not that the Viera is inferior.

I’m pretty certain you’ll find that all that is required is the correct tweaking, not a major overhaul.

Post back here after you’ve browsed above if you still find you can’t solve the problem.