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Thursday, 11 April, 2002, 10:47 GMT 11:47 UK
The ITV Digital backlash
ITV Digital
Will its users miss ITV Digital?
test hello test
Nick Higham
BBC media correspondent
line

ITV Digital's problems have provoked predictably gloomy reactions from readers of these columns.

"What a mess!" writes Gareth Lloyd, who says that, after waiting three years for ITV Digital's signal strength in Berkshire to improve, he has recently taken up Sky's offer of a 1 installation fee and is very happy with it.

West Brom's Stanislav Varga
There is limited sympathy for ITV Digital over football rights
He is less happy with the BBC's approach to digital. He resents the way some programming is being moved to digital only, and thinks the BBC is too concerned with quantity at the expense of quality.

David Hughes (aged 15 and "a former believer in ITV Digital") says his family has had ITV Digital for nearly two years but he now thinks Sky's picture quality is superior.

He also complains about the family's ITV Digital receiver: "Our equipment, like most ITV Digital customers, appeared second hand, and the box started to freeze, and the remote simply didn't work.

Sky dish
Going cheap... many find Sky better value
"Digital terrestrial has given us loads of things," he writes, "like pioneering interactive TV, such as digital text, and giving us the option of the internet through the box, but Sky seems so much better (although I'm not a fan of Rupert Murdoch's empire)."

Mobile phone trap

Peter Woodall thinks digital TV is in grave danger of falling into the same trap as the mobile phone industry - an obsession with technology at the expense of content.

"The mobile phone companies assumed that because technology was able to allow phones to access the internet, or show films, then the public would want it - they didn't," he says.

"What did the public really want from mobile phones? Simple, cheap reliable telephone calls.

"We now see both ITV Digital and NTL on their knees pleading for preferential treatment as regards their financial dilemmas.

3G phones being demonstrated in Japan
ITV Digital and NTL have suffered like mobile phone companies
"ITV Digital wants to re-negotiate its football deal. Why should they be allowed to do so? I feel they should be held to the contract, which was based purely on misguided beliefs and greed."

Digital switch

Andrew Pitt is one of several readers to wonder where all this leaves the government's ambition to get us all to switch to digital TV by 2010.

Forty-one per cent of homes have digital. But Andrew says the government neglects to mention that the vast majority of those homes also have several other analogue TVs and video recorders.

"So, even all those 'digital' homes are still very much analogue and you can't even buy a small 15" integrated digital set or VCR even if you wanted to!

"The government seems to simply ignore this problem and assumes it will just go away, but the analogue switch off will still affect these 'digital' households.

Portable problem

He also adds that digital sets are not as versatile as portable analogue sets.

"Our DTT [digital terrestrial television] network is incapable of indoor reception - those loops or 'rabbit ear' aerials that are perfectly acceptable for analogue PAL broadcasts won't cut it with DTT," he says.

Ryan Giggs in ITV Digital
Want to tape digital football? Without digital terrestrial videos, it's tricky
"The government want me to spend a modest sum of money upgrading all my equipment, but to what end? They haven't made any promises regarding the reallocation of the spectrum, which begs the question, why should I subsidise the sale of spectrum to telecoms companies?"

Only Derryck Swatman seems pleased.

"As a middle-aged man who felt he was watching too much television, I can only applaud the industry's generous (and apparently expensive) plan to wean me off it," he writes.

"Despite the early sense of loss and pain, I can report positive results and have found many other things to do with my time and money."

E-mail: nick.higham@bbc.co.uk

See also:

15 Jan 02 | TV and Radio
Digital horror stories
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