Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Digitally-switched over

Disused Dock

The Digital Switchover finally reached our area this week, which means that analogue terrestrial television broadcasts are no longer available in most of Yorkshire. It’s a culmination of a process that has taken well over a decade to get this far, and some areas are still to switch – Tyne & Wear being the last in September next year. On the whole, it’s been managed well – all new televisions on sale are capable of receiving digital TV broadcasts without an extra set-top box, and even if a set-top box is required, they’re cheap and don’t necessarily require a subscription. Plus, digital TV offers clear advantages over analogue – namely more channels, but also better picture quality.

Because we don’t watch live TV much – we tend to watch stuff on iPlayer when it’s convenient, rather than plan our evenings around the TV schedule – we haven’t bothered with premium services like Sky, BT Vision or Top Up TV (Virgin Media isn’t in our area). Our little town of Sowerby Bridge is located in a valley, which makes for nice views but isn’t so good when it comes to radio transmissions, so rather than receiving our broadcasts directly from Emley Moor, we get them via a repeater transmitter at Luddendenfoot (I challenge you to say that whilst drunk). That repeater was analogue-only until the switchover, so whilst most of the country has had both analogue and digital broadcasts available side-by-side, we’ve just had the former, and now have the latter. Alas, as it’s a repeater transmitter, we don’t get the full range of terrestrial channels – essentially just the channels offered by BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 and their variants, even though the switchover is complete. Consequently, we couldn’t watch ourselves on Dave last night.

Because of the unavailability of digital terrestrial, and the fact that our flat has a shared satellite dish, we got a Freesat box at Christmas, and that has been our main way of watching TV in the mean time. Freesat’s advantages over Freeview, the terrestrial service, is that there are more channels on there, including 5 high-definition channels (BBC HD, BBC One HD, ITV1 HD, Channel 4 HD and NHK World HD). Unfortunately, we still don’t get some of the channels which are on Freeview, despite them both being subscription-free – and again, Dave is one of those channels. Still, the box only cost £60 and it’s subscription-free.

With already having Freesat, and not being able to get all of the Freeview channels, the switchover of the terrestrial broadcasts to digital hasn’t really made a big difference to us, on the whole. Perhaps it’ll be useful if we ever get a second television set for another room, as there’s only one satellite connection.

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