Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point
On Air
Low Graphics

Thursday, March 5, 1998 Published at 04:45 GMT


Consumers urged to delay going digital

Up to 200 channels will be available...

People who switch too soon to digital television in the UK may lose out as the technology continues to develop, according to a consumer report.

Which? magazine says early buyers of set-top boxes and expensive new televisions may lose out in the same way as owners of betamax videos and the squariel satellite receiver before them.

[ image: ...if you have the right little black box...]
...if you have the right little black box...
It says that it will take years for the television revolution to settle down into a market which gives the consumer the best value for money.

Until then buyers may want to hang on to their cash.

Digital television is being launched in the UK later this year when three competing services, the first operated by BskyB, get off the ground.

Commercial televisions stations and the BBC are also launching digital television services.

It will be the biggest change to broadcasting since the switch from black and white to colour.

Digital television uses new technology to compress broadcasting signals which means much more information can be sent into the living room at the same time, potentially creating up to 200 television channels.

[ image: that you can surf through the airwaves...] that you can surf through the airwaves...
Media organisations say this will bring more programme choice, expand pay tv, launch interactive services such as shopping and education, and eventually lead to a merger between the Internet and broadcasting.

Subscribers to digital television will need a set-top box, rather like a satellite decoder, to receive signals.

But according to the Which? report, this technology will be expensive and may become obsolete within a matter of years.

It says BskyB's proposed £200 decoders could later be replaced by boxes which will be able to receive both digital satellite and terrestial signals.

Eventually the box will be built into the television itself, the report continues.

[ image: find the service which you want.] find the service which you want.
Andrew McIlwraith, senior editor of Which? magazine, said: "It might be tempting to be at the forefront of new technology, but it's probably best to wait in the case of digital television.

"Upgrading TV equipment may be inconvenient and expensive and if you leap too soon, it could quickly become redundant.

"There does not even appear to be any guarantee that going digital will mean better picture quality and an improved range of programmes."

Digital television has already started on the continent but it is too early to tell how successful it has been.

In Germany, two media giants have finally reached an agreement on what technology to use as the standard while in France broadcasters say their services are heading for profit next year.

The European Union's competition commissioner, Karel Van Miert, has said he is concerned that a handful of companies will come to dominate the continent's airwaves once the digital revolution is complete.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

Sci/Tech Contents

Relevant Stories

12 Feb 98†|†Sci/Tech
Britain will switch to digital - but when?

13 Feb 98†|†Monitoring
Can Europe manage its digital TV giants?

03 Feb 98†|†Sci/Tech
Digital TV 'on schedule for June'

20 Jan 98†|†UK
TV giants in £60m dispute

25 Nov 97†|†Sci/Tech
Britain - a green and digital land

24 Oct 97†|†Sci/Tech
Britons lag behind in high-tech revolution

Internet Links

Digital terrestial television - Dept of Culture, Media and Sport

Digital Television - speech by Karel Van Miert, European Commissioner

Proposed UK Digital TV line-up

Which? magazine

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

World's smallest transistor

Scientists join forces to study Arctic ozone

Mathematicians crack big puzzle

From Business
The growing threat of internet fraud

Who watches the pilots?

From Health
Cold 'cure' comes one step closer