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EDITIONS
Thursday, 22 March, 2001, 17:35 GMT
What is digital TV?
Digital TV to the uninitiated is still a bit of a mystery. BBC News Online unravels the jargon from the facts.

What is digital TV?

Digital TV is the new form of broadcasting that turns the pictures and sound into computer language. It effectively turns your television into a form of computer so that it can connect to the internet, take interactive programmes and carry many, many more channels.

Digital transmissions can be received in three ways - through your TV aerial, via a satellite dish and via cable. To receive digital TV you will need a set-top box to decode the digital signals - or a new digital TV set.

What is analogue TV?

Analogue TV is the old system of broadcasting that we have had since television began in the 1940s and 50s.

It converts sound and pictures into waves which are transmitted through the air and picked up by your rooftop or indoor aerial.

Is one better than the other?

Broadcasters and service providers say digital television not only means more programmes, but also a better quality pictures and sound. Viewers will also be able to get more channels, interactive television, the internet, home shopping and home banking.

But there are reports that Digital TV could have some drawbacks. According to the consumer magazine Which? the main problem is compression, the process of squeezing transmission information so it travels faster and can be decoded quicker.

A detailed and complicated picture - such as a high-speed pan across a crowd could be troublesome as a huge amount of information is compressed. The result for the viewer can be jerky motion or a blocky picture.

Critics also say that most people are unlikely to notice any improvements in picture quality or sound, as they will not be apparent on most peoples' TVs.

If I have got more than one TV will I need more than one set-top box?

Yes. This is one of the big problems. Many people now have three, four, or five sets because televisions don't break down like they used to. So when you get a new set you just put the old one in a bedroom say, and each of those will need some form of adapter to turn them digital.

How much will a digital TV cost?

It depends. You don't necessarily need a digital television set, though you can have one. At the moment they cost between 650 and 1,800, but that will come down.

You can, however, have a set-top box that turns your existing analogue set into a digital television, and at the moment several companies give these away for free, provided you subscribe to their channels.

What will happen to all the old analogue sets? Will they be sent overseas like old computers?

That would be one possibility, but in fact they are more likely to be converted into a digital set by a digital adapter, so many people will be able to adapt their sets to turn them digital.

What are other countries doing about digital?

No other country is as advanced in terms of digital television as Britain, particularly in terms of digital terrestrial television, which is the system that goes into an ordinary TV aerial.


In DepthIN DEPTH
Broadcasting
Charting its past, present and digital future
Links to more Entertainment stories are at the foot of the page.


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