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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 November 2005, 13:28 GMT
Digital Doctor: Your questions answered
TV sets
Shopping for a TV set? Think digital...
Many viewers are confused about the impending switchover from analogue TV to digital, due to take place between 2008 and 2012.

What will the changeover mean for licence fee payers? Will it mean buying a new television? And - most important of all - how much will it cost?

BBC News' resident Digital Doctor is on hand to deal with your queries, and has put your questions to those in charge of the switchover - including Andy Townend, director of operations at Digital UK, the organisation in charge of the process.

Here are some of the questions you asked on Wednesday - with answers.

Question: Will I just need to buy a digital box?
Viv Cowley, Warrington UK

Digital Doctor: In many cases - yes. 73% of the UK can receive digital television through an aerial - Freeview - and the simplest way to get that is to buy a set-top box for your TV. A minority of people may need to replace their aerial to get a good picture.

If you are considering replacing your TV, think about getting an integrated digital TV, which can already pick up Freeview signals.

As well as Freeview, there is also satellite TV, with the "Freesat from Sky" service as well as the BBC and ITV's planned Freesat service. Digital TV is also be available in some areas through cable operators or through your phone line.

Question: We live in west Kent, only about 25 miles from Central London, and yet we can't get digital TV (or Channel 5 for that matter). We've been told the area is too close to France, or something like that, and that it would interfere with French TV. What is the truth of this? How and when will we be able to get it? Or is the government in its inestimable wisdom and competence suddenly just going to turn our television off with no viable alternative?
James Wickham, Sevenoaks, Kent, England

Analogue switch-off will start in 2008 and be completed by 2012
Andy Townend, Digital UK: "While 73% of the UK can get digital TV, only 80 out of 1,154 transmitters have been converted. To convert the others, you would have to increase the power of the digital transmissions, which would affect the current analogue signals. We are also still in negotiations with France and other neighbouring countries to make sure we get the power and frequencies right.

"It is too early to give specific guidance, but 98.5% of the population can receive analogue TV now, and after switchover we are planning for the same proportion of the population to receive digital TV through their aerials."

Question: I have Freeview and I am confused by the exhortations to "press the red button to go interactive". This doesn't work on my unit; is this because there is no internet link?
Andrew Whiteside, London, UK

Digital Doctor: It shouldn't link to the internet - when you press red on a Freeview box, it simply switches you to another broadcast stream. However, older Freeview and ITV Digital boxes can struggle with red-button applications like digital text. Contact your retailer or manufacturer for advice.

Question: When we have to switch over to digital does this mean we will have to get a digital box for every TV in the house? Can more than one TV be connected to one box, and will they then both have to watch the same channel?
Emma Lister, Cambridge

Andy Townend, Digital UK: "If your TVs are analogue, then after switch-over you will have to upgrade each TV, for example, with a set-top box. There are some products on the market which can send a signal from a set-top box to another TV, although they will have to watch the same channel."

Question: We are being urged to switch off televisions rather than leave them on standby. How can the government justify analogue switch-off when in the short and medium term this will involve millions of extra set-top boxes running alongside existing sets?
Gary, Slough UK

Andy Townend, Digital UK: "Set-top boxes consume very little energy, and manufacturers are being encouraged to improve their performance. After switchover, increasingly, all TVs will be digital anyway, without the need for a set-top box."

Question: I bought a Freeview box but couldn't use it because my TV wasn't good enough, it's a six-year old cheap portable, with no scart socket and no AV button on the remote, so there was no way to get it to work. Is the government going to buy me a new telly?
Julie Wall, Wolverhampton, UK

Andy Townend, Digital UK: "There are products available that should help you connect your TV to your box. Contact your local retailers for advice."

Question: Will the Freeview channels all change to pay-TV one day, as happened with Sky analogue in September 1993?
Brian Butterworth, Brighton, UK

Andy Townend, Digital UK: "With the exception of one of the BBC's multiplexes, all the others are regulated by the media watchdog Ofcom, and it's a matter for Ofcom. The other public service multiplexes are free and I can't see that changing."

Digital Doctor: A multiplex is a group of digital channels - the BBC has two multiplexes while ITV and Channel 4 share one. One of the multiplexes is used for Top Up TV - a subscription service. Ofcom has proposed allowing pay-TV services on some of the other multiplexes, including one used by the BBC. However, the main BBC and ITV/ Channel 4 multiplexes are not included in this proposal.

Question: On the current system I can record ITV and watch BBC One at the same time. But on my Sky Digital I can only record what I am watching. Would this happen on digital TV or would you be able to set up different channels on different buttons on the TV as we do now? Sorry if this is a daft question but I am a born "flicker".
Angela Boosey, Stevenage

Digital Doctor: While your analogue video recorder will only let you record one digital channel at a time, new products are superseding VCRs. Hard disk recorders - such as Sky + for Sky Digital subscribers - can allow you to record one or more channels while you are watching another, and some TVs even have the recorders built into them.

Question: So why are stores still selling analogue-only TVs and other equipment ? I need a VCR to replace my old one, I'd like a DVD recorder too, but can find none that has both analogue and Freeview tuners.
Mike W, Shrewsbury UK

Andy Townend, Digital UK: "Increasingly, manufacturers are stopping productions of VCRs - Dixons recently announced it was to stop selling them. One of the things we're doing at Digital TV is introducing a "tick" logo, so people know their equipment will work at switchover. For any further advice, look at our website, or call us on 0845 6 50 50 50."

Question: Why does analogue television have to be switched off? Old 405-line VHF transmissions were only turned off in the 1980s when no-one was watching them anymore. Isn't this rush to kill analogue more about the government's wish to make money from auctioning off the frequencies rather than any benefit to the consumer?
Andrew Wiseman, Cambridge, UK

Andy Townend, Digital UK: "The only way to switch the whole country to digital transmissions is through turning off the analogue signal. With digital TV, everyone is given a choice, and there are added benefits for the visually-impaired and hard-of-hearing as well."

Question: What will be the environmental cost of the switch-over, as people discard perfectly good television sets just because they are not digital?
Julien Parrott, Newbury, Berkshire

Andy Townend, Digital UK: "There is no need to discard TV sets in the vast majority of cases, because they can be upgraded with set-top boxes."

Viewers 'unaware of analogue end'
02 Nov 05 |  TV and Radio
Q&A: Digital TV
02 Nov 05 |  Entertainment


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