Digital switchover: Biggest change in TV since the introduction of colour
From today the way we receive television signals will change forever. Here’s our guide to making the switch as painless as possible
Yesterday marked a landmark day in the history of television in Northern Ireland when the analogue BBC Two signal was shut down for good to make way for the digital era.
The digital TV switchover is the biggest change in television since the introduction of colour in 1966. Analogue signals will be switched off and replaced with new digital services.
In simple terms, it means that BBC One, BBC Two, ITV, Channel Four and Channel Five will stop broadcasting on standard analogue TV, and you'll need to have a digital set top box or a TV set that has a built-in digital TV receiver if you want to see what’s on the box.
Yesterday marked stage one of the switchover in Northern Ireland; therefore the analogue BBC Two signal will be shut down permanently.
At the same time, BBC digital channels, including BBC Two, extend to reach all areas.
Stage two — when the remaining analogue channels go for good — is scheduled for October 24.
Confused? Who wouldn’t be? That’s why the Belfast Telegraph has comprised a comprehensive guide that will answer all your questions.
What do you need to do?
- If you are using an older TV, with no Freeview box, cable or satellite service, you will probably need to upgrade your equipment or buy an additional set top box. If you haven’t converted and still have analogue TV, you will lose BBC Two today and all of your remaining channels on October 24.
- If you have a newer TV with a built-in Freeview tuner, or own a Freeview set top box, you may need to retune your TV to ensure you continue to receive all channels.
- If you have a Freesat set top box or TV, or subscribe to a TV service like Sky or Virgin Media, no action is required.
- If, after switching to a Freeview TV or set top box you find you can't receive all the channels, you may need to upgrade your TV aerial.
If you have to upgrade equipment, what are the options?
- Buy a new TV. One easy solution is to buy a TV with a built-in Freeview tuner. If you're not sure if your TV has a Freeview tuner, the easiest way to check is to see how many channels you currently receive. If it's more than the main five, your TV is receiving Freeview. Small or large, almost all new TVs come with built-in Freeview tuners, so there should be something for every budget. Some TVs also come with Freeview HD, which is a higher definition service, offering some channels, such as BBC 1 HD, with superior picture quality of standard broadcasts.
- Buy a Freeview set top box. This is the cheapest option, and involves purchasing a Freeview set top box to connect to your TV, which can receive a digital signal and let you watch Freeview without having to buy a new TV. Freeview set top boxes can be purchased for under £20, and are fairly inexpensive. A set top box like this will give you access to around 50 digital channels. Another option is a Freesat set top box, which is similar to Freeview but offers more channels (around 150) and requires the installation of a satellite dish.
- Sign up to a subscription TV service. Subscription TV services are available from Virgin Media, Sky and BT Vision. They all offer various price levels, and access to hundreds of channels. There are also benefits to taking out a TV subscription — most services offer a PVR (personal video recorder) , as well as the opportunity to take out bundles that also include broadband and phone services.
How do you retune?
Viewers watching Freeview, Top Up TV or BT Vision will need to do a full retune of their equipment at both stages of switchover in order to continue receiving services.
Follow these steps to carry out a full retune (these instructions are a guide only — each product works slightly differently).
- Make sure your Freeview TV or box is on and in digital mode. Press ‘menu’ on your remote control.
- Select the ‘set up’ or ‘installation’ option. If you see picture icons, select the tool box, satellite dish or spanner.
- If you are prompted for a code, try 0000 or 1234.
- Select the full retune option. This is sometimes called ‘first time installation’, ‘factory reset’, ‘default settings’ or ‘shipping conditions’.
Do not select ‘channel update’ or ‘add channels’.
- Press ‘OK’ if your equipment asks if you want to delete all your channels. Don’t worry, this is normal.
- Channels will automatically be installed.
This could take a few minutes and your equipment may shut down and then restart itself.
If you find you are missing some channels or your equipment has stopped working, visit digitaluk.co.uk/retuning for more information.
If you can’t do this yourself, you might want to ask friends or family who could do it for you, or call out an installer.
Will I be able to get RTE one, RTE two and TG4?
After switchover, when analogue TV is turned off, most people will be able to get these services via an aerial, either from Freeview in Northern Ireland or via Saorview.
Technical differences between Freeview and Saorview may affect the equipment you need and the channels you can receive.
On Freeview, the channels will be broadcast in standard definition but HD equipment will be required to receive them.
Digital UK recommends discussing your options with a retailer before purchasing any new equipment.
Viewers can use the postcode checker at digitaluk.co.uk to check channel availability in their area.
For more information on Saorview, visit saorview.ie or call 0844 8008 752.
Still not sure what to do for the digital switchover?
- If you need help getting access to Freeview, or have any questions about the switchover, Digital UK have set up a phone line to assist.
Ring 08456 50 50 50 for more information about the digital switchover.
- If you are over 75, or disabled, Digital UK have set up a scheme that provides everything needed to switch to digital.
Details can be found at www.helpscheme.co.uk, or call 080 0408 5900.