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Thursday, 29 March, 2001, 09:31 GMT 10:31 UK
Is digital television going to catch on?
The Consumers' Association says the UK government should rethink its plans to phase out analogue television within five to ten years.
A survey found that of those who don't currently have digital television, one third said they would never get it. Half of those questioned said they would only watch free-to-air channels.
The Consumers' Association says it's time to end the analogue switch-off and find ways of allowing consumers to switch to digital easily, affordably and because they want to.
Will the digital revolution catch on? Have you thought about switching? Or do you think you would not use the additional channels digital television offers?
This debate is now closed. Your comments:
Digital TV does not give better quality pictures than the analogue service. Packing more channels into the available bandwidth has compromised the quality that could have been available. Analogue pictures have been degraded to match digital so users who switch to digital would not see a marked difference. As a digital consumer myself I can say that the quality of programming has come down and this will have a knock on effect to the terrestrial television programming. The service is also unreliable and the extra services that are available are not worth shelling out extra money for. Also teletext is difficult to access, if not impossible on some channels
In my opinion digital television is the best way of knowing everything that is going on around the world especially news which you cannot see on a government television channel. Also you can find some interesting programmes for children and adults.
My off-air analogue TV works fine and I'm happy with the five channels I get. I've read the information on the digital service and I am now totally confused. The only clear thing is that I am going to be forced to pay a lot more money for digital services I don't need and don't want.
Since we had OnDigital installed in our home, its been like an entertainment revolution! More channels and more of your money's worth of channels, and you don't even need a satellite dish! Excellent service and very helpful staff, keep up the good work OnDigital!
Barry Purkis, England
It seems that the main issue here is availability. Where I live in Central London has, ironically, appalling analogue reception even with an aerial booster. But I am in a cable area, so I can get perfect digital TV plus telephone line for £9 a month (those of you whinging about paying twice, this works out the same as having a BT line and free analogue TV, except you get some good free-to-view digital channels like BBC Knowledge too). I remember being livid when my street was dug up by the cable people, but now I'm so glad they did.
I find the prospect of truly mobile high speed internet access very exciting - all that information whenever and wherever I want it - so if switching off the analogue transmitters can help provide it, the sooner it can happen the better.
I have subscribed to digital television and if I were to list all the things I dislike about it, I'd probably cover the page. Can't wait to get rid of it.
I had digital TV installed a few months back, and it does have its benefits over analogue, such as the interactivity and wide screen programmes. However, when the smallest of breezes hits the aerial, the picture goes mad, and the sound cracks, yet when I turn over to the analogue, alas a perfect picture! Things like this will needed to be sorted out before the full changeover takes place. Also, some of the programming is not worth the subscription. Because I live in N. Ireland I can pick up Irish TV (RTE) and can watch programmes such as the new series of Friends etc. without having to pay!
I defy anyone to say the picture on my analogue wide screen TV is worse than a digital TV signal. My analogue picture is crystal clear and suffers from none of the pixellation and artefacts that a digital picture does when, for example, there is a lot of fast action on the screen such as an explosion or car chase and the digital compression engine just cannot process enough data to prevent the "blockiness" you see.
I for one will not shell out for a digital TV when you can (and will still be able to in the future I would guess) buy your favourite programs and films on DVD/VHS and watch then on your "old" analogue equipment thereby negating the need to watch broadcast programs at all.
Ninety per cent of the shows on are pure garbage anyhow, so if it's digital garbage or analogue garbage, it really doesn't matter aside from cost. I'll take whichever is the least expensive of the two. I'd rather the TV industry spend more time, money and effort on script writing and attempting to obtain higher quality standards of news reporting, than play games with signal type.
Delboy, Northern Ireland
Every single one of the current posters in this discussion has missed the point entirely. The reason why the government (be whatever party in power) wishes to close the current analogue system is to free the airwaves. Why? So they can auction them off and get another huge windfall. Several billions of pounds/euros (or in 2010 several hundreds of billions) of indirect tax will go straight to the Treasury. I can forecast the 2011 budget now - tax cuts or extra spend on services paid for by 4G mobile phone licence revenues and then the stock markets will crash with the debt owed by the operators.
I think that digital television is just a phase. Obviously analogue will be switched off sooner or later but I believe that one single platform will deliver television, Internet, radio and telephone. Who knows how this platform will work, but the digital era of today is just the foundation for a brand new system.
It seems to be just another government rip-off to me. Not only will we have to pay for the current TV licence, but also VAT on purchasing digital equipment and subscriptions to digital service providers - all for repeats of programmes that we paid for with licence fees years ago. That's a nice little earner for the government.
Paul B, UK
I think Digital TV is great, in my household we have two DTT boxes (subscribed) and also one DSAT. The picture quality is better than VHS quality and once you go multi-channel there's no way you can go back to the five channels.
Dear oh dear, from what I've read on this page so far it seems that there are a number of people who genuinely believe life would not be worth living if analogue was taken away! I would find it incredibly sad if this were the truth, and I don't believe it is for a moment. It's high time someone said something positive on this page and if it has to be me, so be it. The age of digital television will herald a new era for television as a whole. It's high time there was a revolution, as many of us are not satisfied with the analogue service. And for those of you who may miss out as a result, I suggest you open a book, buy a skipping rope, visit a new country or do anything that opens up your eyes to the idea that there is actually a world outside of day to day television.
I bought Digital TV when it first appeared and was amazed by the picture. The difference between analogue was evident but one disadvantage is that when it does have problems with the signal (bad weather) it stops completely for about thirty seconds - with analogue systems you would get some interference but the picture would still be viewable with sound. As for extra channels, some of them are worthwhile (you can't have enough music channels in my opinion) but comparing the digital BBC picture now with how it looked two years ago, it is worse. This is because the number of channels squeezed onto the system is limiting the amount of data available for a perfect picture on the channels you want to watch. A limit has to be defined before the picture degradation gets too bad. Digital is the future but the many points raised here show that analogue should not be killed for a while yet.
Most people don't care whether their TV understands 1s and 0s or an analogue signal. What matters is the content and what you have to pay for this content. Most people would benefit from spending less time living their lives through actors on the small screen and more time in the real world outside discovering that there is more to life than TV.
Is it going to catch on? You won't have a choice. The government want the analogue frequencies back because third generation mobile phones can use them. The last time the government auctioned those, they raised 22 billion pounds for the countries coffers. Are analogue viewers really going to force us to pay more tax?
It used to be 4 channels of reasonable programming. Since satellite TV was installed, I find the mass of adverts interrupted by the odd programme quite intolerable. I watch 30-45 minutes a week only!
David O"Neill, N Ireland
Until the method of delivery has been sorted out - ie cable or satellite or via an aerial - it seems rather silly to force the shutdown of analogue broadcasts. Let's face it, the government wants to shut down analogue so that it can sell off the frequencies for mobile communications. It's not doing it out of good will - it's forcing the issue because of greed.
I believe that digital television will inevitably become the world standard, but as it stands at the moment the technology is still too expensive. There needs to be a regulated price for digital television rather than the television companies dictating the price. I think that the change to digital should take place but maybe not as soon as proposed.
Jason Hunt, UK
I live in a rural area and there are no plans to bring cable TV to our region in the near future. This means that if we want digital TV we have to tie ourselves down to a contract with Sky and if analogue was to be removed how would we receive ITV? It's not shown on Sky! Until there is enough choice of providers - and ones that provide across-the-board coverage - you cannot even THINK about getting rid of analogue.
While Digital TV has obvious benefits too numerous to mention, I don't think analogue should be switched off because it, too, has its own benefits over digital - for example, having numerous TVs around the house, watching one channel while recording another, watching TV in the garage etc. Also I believe that the technology-wary such as the old or the very young would suffer - I cannot imagine my Grandmother forking out for digital TV, and my little nephew finds Sky Digital's menus hard to get to grips with.
I've had cable modem Internet access and digital TV via NTL since before Christmas. To be honest the picture quality is poor compared to analogue - from pictures "freezing" and going all blocky, to the digital system just not being able to cope with any fast changes in the pictures. For example, action pictures with explosions and various music videos show the breakdowns in the picture quality really well. I don't believe that the government will change its mind on switching off the analogue system as it's in the interests of big business to force everyone over to the digital system from one provider or other.
Digital TV is a good idea, yes the majority of channels are repeats, or full of "filler" programmes.
Technology moves on, not that the technology behind digital TV is new anyway.
The only reservation and question I have is will the Government pay for a new TV set when the analogue signal is switched off?
DTV is great, much better than analogue, but to be perfectly honest I got rid of my TV 4 years ago and I won't be buying another one. DVDs via my PC suit me perfectly.
If we get digital TV will we still be required to have a TV licence and pay the digital TV supplier, if so, it just seems another compulsory rip-off to add to the rest.
If digital is about improving vision - fine. But if it is about improving quality of content and choice on TV then I have doubts. More channels (springing up like mushrooms) will lead to companies aping each other even more, since they will be desperate to get more viewers, which will lead to more sensationalism and so on, and less choice as they will all be showing the same kind of easy-to-make and cheap programmes - all at a greater cost to the general viewer. Seems like a bad idea to me.
I will only switch to digital when I am
forced to. Of the nine terrestrial
channels I receive (two aerials for
Wales and West regions) I only watch
an average of one program per night -
usually recorded first for convenience.
There is little on which interests me,
but if there was more, I would not have
the time to watch it anyway! There's
more to do in life that watch digital
Well I get sick of having to pay, pay and pay again for TV that has so many commercials it looks like it's been paid for 10 times over.
After already shelling out for Nicam, Widescreen, Dolby Pro-Logic Surround Sound, etc., I wonder where it will all end. It's like a dog chasing it's tail.
The equipment becomes more relevant than the content of what you're watching.
In a few short paragraphs, I read other comments such as "forced to watch", "held captive", "how would we survive" etc - This is clearly an emotive issue and aside from the issue of the worrying control that television seems to exert over some readers, shows that the authorities must clearly be very careful in treading on the toes of UK TV viewers. Bear in mind, though, that the analogue airwaves have now been sold to the phone companies. Given that no Government will be able to afford to buy back these rights, analogue will end!
Russell Middleton, UK
Why the big hurry to switch off analogue?
I only want to buy a new TV when mine breaks down - not when the Government forces me to buy a digital one. Leave the analogue transmitters on for at least another 10 years please!
Steve J. from England is sadly mistaken, regardless of whether you have analogue or digital you still have to pay for a license.
I live in the Malvern Hills area where the quality of the analogue terrestrial signal is quite unacceptable despite the employment of signal boosters and a special aerial.
The installation of an analogue satellite dish was a massive improvement but there was still serious interference in adverse weather conditions.
The digital satellite system I now have installed has completely resolved all problems - perfect reception of all channels and, as a bonus, a phenomenal choice of good quality programmes (including digital radio).
Chris Anderson, England
I have digital TV here in USA mainly so that I can get BBC America. Most of American TV is very poor quality. The other reason is that we also have digital internet access which is wonderful. Connection speeds are great, I would never go back to a dial up connection.
Once you have paid for the installation of digital TV here, you pay a monthly charge which gives you access to all channels. In addition there are a few payper-view channels which show the newest films and some sporting events.
My experience of digital TV so far is poor quality reception and added expense - I've found the analogue picture using the same aerial is perfect.
Digital transmission must come up to scratch before a "revolution" occurs.
Analogue should continue. I have digital in my living room, but if analogue goes how am I going to use the TV in my campervan, my kitchen etc? I don't want to have to buy a new tuner for those. And what about my pocket Casio TV?
Also I feel the broadcast picture quality of digital needs improvement. It's very easy to see pixel break-up. It's nowhere near as good as the quality of DVD.
We live in a rural area with poor reception, and there are no plans for us ever to get cable. How would we survive without analogue?
Secondly we use old TVs in the kitchen and children's rooms. Until you can get household "digital converters" rather than individual TV top converters, the costs are prohibitive. Many of us no longer have only one TV per household.
Yes you have to pay more for digital TV but for more you get quality and repeats. Last night I was enjoying a re-run of the Drama Spender, Terrestrial TV does not have the time to show such things.
Jeff Scholey's comparison of digital TV v. analogue TV and CD v. vinyl is very unfortunate. After the announced demise of vinyl, there has been a strong revival of the format and now vinyl sales increase faster than CD sales.
Once integrated digital TV sets become the norm, there should be no need to worry about the analogue demise.
However, integrated sets are being produced very slowly, so I do hope the switch-over is delayed.
But there is growing pressure from mobile phone companies to free up the space taken by analogue TV, so digital is inevitable - it's just a matter of time.
Also, I consider the licence fee as a forced subscription charge, so removing that altogether and having an optional charge within a subscription package seems much more reasonable to me.
When given the superior picture quality, TV on demand, more choice and more interactivity, the minimal increase in price is a good compromise.
We have a TV capable of receiving both analogue and digital signals, and wanted to use the OnDigital service because it's the only one with ITV. Unfortunately we are stuck between two transmitters, and neither signal is acceptable. We have been told that there are no plans to change this!
I think that coverage will have to be improved so that we can choose not to have those hideous dishes stuck on the side of our houses.
I suspect that there are many, like me, who are attracted by the technology, but are deterred by the need to "lock-in" to a contract with either of the two providers, B-Sky-B or OnDigital, in addition to the existing licence fee.
If the licence fee was replaced by a choice of subscription charges - including a choice of whether to subscribe to the BBC (or not) - I for one would have a much greater incentive to look seriously at a digital provider.
In the meantime, I'm quite happy to stick with what I've got.
I've had digital TV through a cable
since it came out in my area, and the
quality is way above analogue. What
worries me is the aspect of increased
"pay per view" programming which must
be everybody's main agenda item.
I guess that's inevitable, but I hope
the powers that be don't get greedy
and insist the current licensing system
continues to be enforced. That will
damage the expansion of digital
broadcasting, for sure.
Jo Mitchell, UK
I don't object to paying licence fees. The reasoning behind this is that I pay 40p a day for two TV channels, 5 radio channels, a superb web site, films, etc.
Why? The BBC is the best value for money people get. I don't want 30 channels, ALL of them pouring adverts at me. I like to watch television that doesn't pander to those who want to watch 12 hours solid of soap operas and game shoes. The BBC still offers brain fodder in places and I refuse to give it up. More channels means more dross - and nothing else. Keep your digital.
Digital TV needs to undergo vast improvements before analogue can be turned off.
At the moment if you have several TVs in the house then you would need a separate set up for each, you can send the signal to each TV, but they all have to watch the same channel.
You cannot record one channel while watching another.
The picture quality is nothing special. Forget the hype.
One of the nicest things about DTV is the improved, interference free picture quality. However, you don't watch television for the picture quality alone - you watch it for the quality and diversity of the programmes. However, digital TV is only able to match one of these criteria - you don't need to be Einstein to guess which one - and I don't see this improving much in the long-term, never mind near, future.
Turn off analogue now. Digital is far superior, has better reception, more channels, works on wide screen TVs and has better Teletext.
My mother had digital cable installed
and kept on raving about it. I paid
a visit and was impressed by the
picture quality and range of channels.
Being fed up with the same old soap
opera/game show/sit-com line up of
ITV and BBC, we had digital cable
installed a few weeks later. We
would never go back to analogue TV.
Mat Allen, UK
I am quite happy with the 5 channels I receive through my ariel onto my 17 year old TV. I have looked at the digital options but found them far too confusing and despite contacting KIT twice, never received an information pack or application form.
I would (and do) prefer to pay £30 a month for the digital channels than £100 a year for the endless Eastenders and other substandard garbage the BBC is allowed to put out.
As a fan of the big screen, I would welcome the chance to view movies and television drama on a high quality, widescreen, 'noise' free set. However, I'm really not sure that I would want to pay to watch the poor quality programmes and repeats that are on our small screens at present. Digital radio, with the new stations, would definitely appeal, but I can't quite understand why we're not already given access to these stations, with more comedy, children's shows etc.
Lee Tonks, England
Having been a subscriber to Sky digital for some time I have become increasing aware of how limiting choice on a digital network is. With a multitude of channels and a wide selection of programmes I can still only sit down and watch one at a time, but now through this wonderful technology I can't record a programme on another digital channel at the same time. So what's the choice, hope that the programme is repeated (sometime after midnight usually) or wait a few weeks for the film to be shown again. Either way my video recorder is becoming redundant. Why should I be held captive by programme schedulers when the analogue channels give much more flexibility in the use of home recording equipment and I can be independent of my TV.
I have had digital TV for the over a year and you can see huge improvements that have been made in that time.
The great thing about digital TV is freedom of choice - if you don't want to watch, you don't have to pay. Surely that is better than having to pay for a license when you don't actually watch any of the programs?
Richard G, UK
You cannot fight evolution, and in the same way that vinyl disappeared, analogue TV will disappear too. I have thought about swapping my current analogue TV for digital technology, but it is currently far too expensive. I think that the main transition to digital technology will only occur when it becomes affordable.
The current timetable IS too short. And the current system of "free" boxes with subscription doesn't help. Since you cannot get a box without subscription, and even if you do it gets taken back at the end of the year, it's almost impossible to get the "free-to-air" channels without paying hugely.
Alan Beardsley, UK
I am a student and I cannot afford a TV license but I had to find the money and buy one. Luckily for me my course finishes this year but what about students in a couple of years? Not only they will have to buy a license but will also have to subscribe to digital TV.
I have no interest in paying extra for my TV since I can go and watch football down the pub and rent any videos/ DVDs that I wish to watch. Why pay more for usually sub-standard extra channels?
I also hope that if we do switch, the elderly and disadvantaged will receive grants to enable them to switch to the new technology.
I actually applied for digital after BT persuaded me via a sales call. They set a date and came out to install. The engineer said even before he put it in that I probably wouldn't be able to get a signal. He finished the installation and, true enough, I couldn't get a signal. I would have needed an aerial upgrade which my landlord would have to pay for, which he agreed, but as I am 4 floors up, they weren't allowed to do the work. I cancelled the order and finally after about 8 weeks they took the totally useless box away.
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