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Tuesday, July 28, 1998 Published at 12:10 GMT 13:10 UK

Talking Point

Do we really want digital television? Your reaction

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People, and children in particular, spend far too long watching 'the box' as it is. This can only encourage them to watch more. Get a life...
Tony Brown, UK

In answer to the basic question as to whether I want digital TV, I say yes. Improvments in broadcast TV technology are important. I also point out that initial costs tend to be artifically high with this type of technology, so current price tags are misleading. As to the boast of greater choice however, the issue there is not the technology but the culture of programme making and its commercial basis. I am not happy with the overall nature of broadcast TV programmes, and I speak as one has had cable TV for the past 3 years, where there is plenty of so called choice already. This would lead on to an entirely different discussion which we don't have space for here. I do think is important not to confuse the two issues: the development of the technology on the one hand, with the profile and content of TV programmes on the other.
Phil Hall, UK

When most of the appliances in our home and at our place of work are digital then why not the television? The conventional television signals should still be available up until the vast majority of people have changed over.
The cost of a digital television (set top boxes will soon be integrated into the TV) will fall rapidly. Look at CD players. When they first came out they were in the thousands of pounds bracket. Now you can pick a decent one up for 50-100.
I for one will enjoy the extra choice that digital will give me and look forward to the huge improvements that will come as the technology develops and matures.
Ian Thomas, England

Whilst I'm all for using technology to enhance the quality of our existing TV, there is a danger of massive overkill. Look at Sky and Cable TV for instance. There are dedicated movie, news, sports, entertainment, education, music and regional news channels and whilst this provides greater freedom of choice for the licence payer, one must not overlook two significant factors in this process towards digitalised TV.
One, there will be far more TV channels and like it or not, these have to be filled with programmes on a daily basis. This will probably involve importing cheap TV material from the USA and Australia and showing endless repeats of live events eg football as is the case with Sky TV at present. I think that the quality of UK TV, even the BBC, has deteriorated in any case in recent years and the quality of programmes shown on TV is most unlikely to increase if there is an emphasis placed on quantity of programmes broadcast.
Secondly, another adverse effect of the digital revolution would mean higher costs to the TV viewer and this would mean that people would watch more TV for two reasons. Firstly, because there are more channels and secondly, to justify their investment in digital TV. This is going to encourage more people in this country to become telly addicts and "couch potatoes".
When one considers our recent sporting failures and other occasions, surely the last thing we need is for future generations of sport stars to be lost due to excessive TV. It is a threat. Just look at the way the evolution of computers has impacted on the social attitudes of today's youngsters! Digital TV may have the same impact on tomorrow's youngsters.
I still think that the BBC, despite its service deterioration in recent years, provides a good all-round high quality service to cater for a wide cross section of viewers. I'm generally happy with its services, even though as a sports fan, I am disappointed that it has lost out on major sporting events such as Formula One motor racing and the Ryder Cup.
I'm all for greater choice, but let's not sacrifice quality for quantity! I just fear that this may be happening.
Simon Porch, United Kingdom

A large number of people in the UK have accepted low quality TV signals due to poor reception because they were told there is no cheap fix.
Digital TV will offer them a quality of signal they have never experienced. Once it is launched and is on demonstration in the shops it will quickly become popular.
Brian O'Keefe, UK

Why do we need digital TV? There are enough stations currently with the five terrestrial offerings and Sky TV's many channels without the arrival of hundreds more inferior programmes.
John C Mumby, England

So DTV will bring us more choice, better quality pictures, surround sound interactive shopping etc, will it?
More choice - like the extra choice we've all got from having channel 5.
Better quality pictures - useful when half the people seem to want repeats of programmes that were filmed in the 60s and 70s, or in black and white.
Surround sound - very useful I'm sure for game shows, soaps and news, which is what most people watch.
Interactive shopping - has nobody seen QVC? This is nothing about viewer demand and all about businesses making money for services nobody wants.
Andrew Dowle, UK

If digital television offers us the choice of different viewing angles, similar to DVD, that would be great. However, I doubt the picture quality with digital TV will be better than analogue ones - due to the MPEG compression used.
EP Lim, Oxford, UK (M'sian)

I feel that digital television will be good for the viewing public. More choice and the ability to provide more specialist programming are going to be the main plus points in my opinion. Also it can provide an outlet for repeating popular programmes from existing channels at varying times so that if you miss an episode, you can catch up!
Paul Oswald, England

Yes, as long as analogue is still available. Hopefully, when digital is introduced, high end analogue equipment will fall in price!
Richard Clinker, UK

I went from 4 channels in the UK to 65 here in the US. Do I watch more? No. Is it better quality? No. I see a lot of UK TV on the public television stations here. More is not better but at least I don't have to pay a licence fee (tax) to watch TV.
Am I alone in thinking this or is there an underlying motive here for pushing digital TV? If you can get all of the UK to take digital TV it will allow more channels to fit in less radio spectrum. The current radio spectrum taken by analogue TV is perfect for other services. So move everyone to digital TV, free up more UHF spectrum and use it for cell phones and other fee-paying services. The cost is borne by the public who have to buy TV adapter boxes and in the end new TVs.
K Jackson, USA

It's about time! I personally am looking forward to digital television. It's the natural progression. If you've had the opportunity to preview one of these new TV sets, it will change your mind forever about analog models. The pictures are incredible! There are a vast number of technical reasons why we should, as a planet, all convert to digital which I admit, I can only scarcely understand. On the other hand, until TV models are drastically(!) dropped in price, I think the manufacturers and satellite/cable companies are going to suffer a bit. I have no intention of spending $10,000 on a new TV. Even a Bang & Olufsen will have to pull out every bell and whistle before I buy at that price. I am glad to see the change but hope that it will be a change accessible by ALL and not only the few and fortunate!
Brandon Hartford, USA

From a technology point of view - DTV is the answer. However, what will the monthly charges be? How many channels will we get and for what price per month? I suspect that for additional 'quality' programming we will probably be paying extortionate prices - the alternative? Well, lots of extra channels but old programmes.
Gareth, England

In terms of choice, Britain has been behind countries such as America for years. Now, at last we are entering the millenium with a brand new television service. With better quality pictures, cinema style sound, more choice and the advent of interactivity with the boundaries between televisions and computers becoming closer together, Digital television is going to be a very exciting prospect indeed! With more choice however, we have to be careful that there is still quality television being made.
Craig Hubble, United Kingdom

I think that digital TV will result in too many channels by far. Already with our current five terrestrial channels I have found that the quality of the programmes rapidly depletes with an increase in the number of channels.
There just aren't enough good programmes around - and who has time to watch TV all day, every day? If you do you must lead a very sad and empty life. I can see the point of 24hr news for those who work odd hours and perhaps a sports channel or two since the number of sports is quite enormous. However I don't see the point of, say, a soap channel - we have precious few good soaps and too many rubbish ones already - we don't want more! Millions of channels also complicates the problem of parents trying to control their children's viewing. And won't the listings be cumbersome?!
Still I do concede that there is the argument for better quality pictures though the pictures at the moment are clear anyway. (If yours isn't try installing a mast to put your aerial on! - it really works!).
Misbah, England

Yeah, why not? My only concern is that people will be forced to go digital by greedy broadcasters removing the analogue transmissions. I personally love the idea of higher bandwidth, more channels and the possibility of exciting interactive implementations.
Andrew Reynolds, UK

I've clicked the "yes" button, but actually my thoughts are divided. There are many benefits to having digital broadcasting as a transmission method, both for radio and TV, but I am not in favour of hundreds of TV channels. Information overload is a reality in today's world, and I dislike the fact that much of this information (in whatever format) is being pushed on us for commercial reasons. This is true of telecommunications (in a broad sense) in general. It is likely that much of the content will be cheap and easy to produce, without adding quality to our lives. But will viewers become accustomed to it, in a "dumbing down" type process?
Elizabeth Biddlecombe, UK

If it means programmes not being rescheduled at the last moment due to the overrun of some sporting event, then it's got my vote. Also the introduction of channels dedicated to programme types, as on satellite soap channels, sport channels etc would be good.
Pete, UK

While not too sure that the increase in quantity is really what we need, the digital format is most welcome in that it should improve the picture quality. Hopefully content is as high a priority. I was interested in the work done on high definition television a few years ago. Is this on the back burner or is there any further work on picture quality of this calibre?
M Savage, Scotland

Yes - but not just yet. Everyone is submitting wish lists for DTV here that go way beyond what it is capable of. DVT is not the "internet for everybody", it's a technical advancement over what we have like CD was over vinyl. It will be years before it's economical to roll out the true interactive multi-media services that people are imagining. I can't help wondering if we should have waited until it could be done properly.
Paul Sidnell, UK

While I don't think anyone should run out and buy digital until the prices come down (and they will), what needs to be explained is the other uses of digital besides mere channel surfing. With the technology already developed, we can expect to have systems that will allow us to view several channels at once, change the size of our display (screen) to adapt to the program, access the net, answer the telephone - in short, effectively handle all our future communication and media needs, A real life "Stranger in a Strange Land" set-up.
Frank Micale, USA

Anything that is an improvement on the existing analogue network(s) is very welcome. I have been a Sky subscriber for many years and look forward to receiving my 'Digital pack' which I requested. As someone who is up-to-date with technology I can't wait! I know that for the majority of people they will not care how the picture arrives on the TV set and all the other interactive/extra channels/home shopping etc that will be available will not interest them.
We only have to look at Europe, Germany is an example, where the original forecast was for 300,000 subscribers to digital TV - the reality is the response was very poor.
Mike Owens, UK

Digital TV is certainly a huge step forward, as was audio tape to Compact Disk, 486 to pentium, AM radio to FM etc etc. The problem with these changes in the UK has always been one of cost. Until the price of a set-top box is lowered from 200 to around 50, it's going to take a lot longer than five years before they will be thinking about turning off the analogue waves. It's going to be hard for a whole country to spend about 200 each just for the sake of a few more channels.
Sean Murricane, Scotland, UK

Dolby Digital 5.1 sound is simply the most impressive sound experience possible. When Digital TV standards include high definition TV and Dolby Digital then the entire TV experience is superior to the local theatre house.
True digital TV provides better value from high cost programming that the UK is so right to cherish.
Nigel Smith, US

I believe that the more choice we have the less actual TV we watch because we end up just surfing channels.
Alan Ganter, UK

Many say that digital TV is the wave of the future and that the type of television we use now will soon be obsolete. Like everything else new it will take time for us to become used to it. It will not be a "fad", but part of everyday life, just as the TV we are now using is. After all, it has been said before that the TV would never really last. People have better things to do than sit in front of a screen and watch it all day. Boy, were they wrong!
Laurel Hilburn, Macon, Georgia, USA

I've had cable TV for 7 years, and in that time, most of the channels in which I'm genuinely interested have fallen by the wayside. The "choice" of more channels means "more of the same", as truly innovative programming has a limited audience (and limited money-making perspectives). Do I want another 30 channels of sport and old films? Not really. Open up my viewing experience to transmissions from other countries, true movies-on-demand, and my reservations in this respect might slightly dissolve.
One of DTV's benefits from my perspective is the opportunity to standardise transmission protocols worldwide (of which the world's broadcasters don't appear to be taking advantage, from what I've seen), and thus I'm not persuaded.
The other possible advantage is the much-heralded convergence of entertainment media (TV, music, computers, the Internet, etc) and my fear is that what we'll get will be the worst of the various components, not the best. The idea of Internet-based set-top boxes leaves me cold. The prospect of looking at blurry (selected) web sites on a TV is not what the current TV receivers are good for, and likewise, computer monitors are not best-equipped to watch TV (the one for watching high-colour, low-resolution moving pictures at a distance, the other for watching low-colour, high-resolution still pictures close up). When we get one box that can perform both functions, I may be convinced.
Furthermore, the most attractive element of the Internet is direct communication with others (thanks to which I'm saying this right now!) In what way will the outgoing signal from my set-top box reach the outside world? Via a POTS line charged by the minute, and making me keep an eye on the mountain of pennies paid to my telephone provider? No thanks!
For this part of this brave new world to make sense, we need flat-rate phone tariffs. Without them, true convergence and interactivity is dead!
I hope for a rosy future for the future of DTV, but I fear that the reality will not meet those hopes.
Richard Sliwa, UK

Although I like the basic idea behind digital TV, I find I hard to believe that the BBC, or indeed any other provider, will have anything new to put on these extra channels. The BBC cannot manage to fill 2 channels with decent programming for most of the year. Are we to be inflicted with yet more trashy soaps, endless cookery programmes, mindless game shows and even more sport?
Rob Gillespie, England

Quality television? A rare beast indeed. Having more channels, at least in theory, gives you a greater chance of seeing something that might appeal. However I suspect programme ratings will win the day, just to get advertising revenue, and we all know what that means.
Geoff Halsey, UK

Yes, we want it, but it needs to be standardised, and integrated into existing digital systems (computers, DVD, Dolby Digital systems) that home cinema enthusiasts have already.
David Cowan, UK

We need a worldwide, consistent, high-quality digital broadcast standard. Good content (ie a lot better than the majority of US and UK satellite garbage) I will be willing to pay for.
Chris Carter, USA (ex pat UK)

No. Digital television would be a terrible mistake. I mean sure, the corporations can sell us a whole new set of products, but what if something awful happened and no one had a broadcast television set and other people were trying to communicate through outdated means of televisation? What then? Or we can just give our governments one more way to keep us in line.
Gideon Stargrave, USA

Digital TV will offer integrated information from the Internet and enhanced TV programmes. Quality will be better whether we choose to use it or not. Technology will move on, even if slowly for some people. It was the same when colour TV came in, in 1968. Some people took years to change their equipment. Within 10 years most people will wonder what the fuss was, and others will still choose to ignore TV.
Andrew Trimble, UK

Yes, I long for the day when the TV or Radio Times is like a telephone directory and I can never get bored as I go channel surfing. I just hope that most of the channels are paid for by advertising. If it is all subscription or pay per view then it will only appeal to the rich. Low cost, wide choice, that's what the viewers need.
Greg Warburton, London, UK

It's the natural progression. Vinyl to CD, TV to digital. No more poor reception, and lots of choice. Well worth 200.
Steve Haran, Barbados

Even in my youth, 20 years and more ago, many technologically-literate people were well aware that satellite and digital broadcasting were on their way, and that the goal was global access.
At the time, I always assumed I would be first to have both technologies. As it is, I have neither and want neither. Their potential to connect the people of the world has been prostituted to market forces, while broadcasting standards have fallen to the lowest common denominator of mass demand.
If I can't watch French or German or even Chinese TV on demand, then I see no need for new technology to support a diet of films, sitcoms, breakfast TV and repeats.
If there IS a new global technology, it is surely the Internet.
John Luby, Scotland

Spend the money on making/getting better quality programmes.
Rob Elliott, UK

We must embrace digital and all its benefits but obviously need to ensure quality remains paramount.
For me digital is more than just improved reception and more channels. What about the interactive services, what will be on offer, how will it work, will we need another phone line?? There is also High Definition TV, what are the plans for this? HDTV sounds exciting but there is no real discussion on this topic at present. For me there is no option - we must go digital.
Philip Ward, UK

Digital TV is a natural progression in the Information Age. The success of teletext services shows this.
Sport is one area in which choice should not be compromised because of limited bandwidth. Football, cricket, Formula 1, racing, golf, tennis etc would all benefit by more choice or less interruptions. Choice of viewing should be dictated by the consumer not the broadcaster. I'd like to choose which Premier League match I watch on a Saturday, or which tennis match out of the many games in progress during a busy Wimbledon schedule I want to view. I should also be able to pick and choose which film I want to watch without having to stick to someone else's schedule, or restrict myself to whatever is left at the video store.
Music - I should be able to specify what group I want to watch, not flick back and forwards on the current music channels waiting for something I really want to watch.
Shopping - I hate shopping. I detest the aimless wanderings around crowded shopping malls, dragging bored children with me. I want to be able to view clothes and goods when I feel like it, not have to concentrate all my efforts into a single Saturday.
Information - the Internet has already shown people what a quantum leap technology has taken since Ceefax. Digital TV should give me the same information but without the lag of an unsuitable analogue telephone line.
Telephone - are we going to get the video phone I saw twenty five years ago at last?
Payment - I want to be able to pay for what I view. I should have the choice of whether or not I pay for uninterrupted coverage or pay less and have unsolicited advertisements thrown at me.
I can't wait for digital TV, but it must be interactive.
Tim Holmes, UK

You don't get something for nothing, even with Digital TV. The more channels you cram in, the lower the picture and sound quality of them. The US has gone for fewer digital channels but with higher definition images whilst Europe has chosen 'more of the same' at a quality slightly better than the conventional analogue system with NICAM stereo sound. Even then, the modest bit rates chosen here may be too low to show fast moving sports type material without obvious picture imperfections. Digital will definitely come but Utopia it isn't!
Clive Thirlwall, UK

Why are you trying to kill the art of verbal communication? As a father I restrict what's already available to my children, but what about the children with not so-aware parents. The average child today does not seem to know how to hold a conversation and the introduction of more "choice" of virtual entertainment will only destroy this further. Don't do it please.
Adrian Humphreys, England

Digital TV looks too expensive. From what I've seen it will offer no more programmes than the current SKY or cable providers. It gets to a point anyway where there is only so much 'quality' TV available. Even now on Cable I see many programmes repeated over and over again with, it has to be said, many poor quality US shows.
Roy Matthews, England

Digital TV as I understand it is a technique in creating the data for transmission. It will apparently allow more space on the airwaves, but only at the sacrifice of existing transmission in the analogue format. The programme is not effected by the transmission medium so what are we to gain! During the next 10 years, the given life for expiry of the analogue TV, the airwaves are going to be even more congested than now. Why waste our money on providing new toys for the techno wizards. The existing progamme quality has in recent years deteriorated with a few exceptions. The sport coverage is better than it used to be, but there is still an excess of football. There are too many low quality and gimmicky DIY, cooking, consumer, vet, and soap progammes. I could go on. So digital will not remedy this - or is there something we, the paying public, do not understand or have not been adequately informed about. If there is so much to gain perhaps you should replace all analogue equipment free of charge.
Mike Clark, UK

I'm all for anything that improves the quality of a pastime that occupies me for the best part of every evening. We've just taken delivery of a widescreen TV and I can't wait to see programmes specifically designed to take advantage of the new format. I love TV - roll on digital!
Bob Kingsley, UK

If digital TV means better quality sound and pictures then of course there's no reason to oppose this advance. However I suspect that this isn't the main selling point in the eyes of those that control this technology - digital TV may well mean the end of quality broadcasting that we've come to expect in the UK. No doubt in the short term the BBC will do fine, but as more and more channels become available, and the audiences are shared over a greater spread, those opposing public channels may well win the argument for the abolition of the licence fee.
Digital TV opens the door to pay-per-view programming, turning television into an expensive form of entertainment. Even now Sky's income from its own 'licence' fee (monthly subscriptions) is considerable. Yet it's responsible for a negligible amount of UK production, as are the majority of the channels currently transmitted over cable and satellite. Add the subscription fee to the cost of the advertising passed onto the consumer as part of the price of high street goods, and non-terrestrial channels soon lose any reputation they attempt to build for themselves that they offer choice and value. Unless Digital broadcasters are subjected to the same rules on quality and content that the terrestrial channels must adhere to (which Sky doesn't) the technology that the BBC are so eager to embrace may prove to be its downfall.
Just a thought....
Shaun Dodson, UK

Digital TV decoders may cost around 200, but will eventually become integrated in TV sets. This is still a fraction of the cost of cable or satellite (a Sky monopoly!). Increased picture and sound quality can only improve viewing, as can greater choice - ie the chances of there being something that appeals when one actually has time to watch it.
Rod Carr, UK

I bet the same question was posed about colour TV ("so what's WRONG with black and white?").
The big plus for digital is that gives a processable signal, hence interactivity and added value information (like text captions, program info etc).
I guess you can do without it in the same way we could do without electric kettles, but why?
Doug Roberts, Australia

Better clarity TV pictures have to be the big win here, but do we really need more channels?
Tim Wyatt, UK

I work in telecommunications and the difference in quality between digital and analogue systems is huge, with the digital ones coming out on top every time. I expect the same to be true of television, but I will buy it for the quality of signal rather than the extra choice-the present level of choice does not mean many good programmes.
David Fellingham, United Kingdom

Digital television is the next obvious stage in advancing the technology and reach of media. It makes a change to see the UK taking the rest of the world by the hand and leading the development of such exciting technology.
Scott Myles, Northern Ireland

Digital TV is inevitable. There is ALWAYS opposition to new technology. One day even the most hardened technophobes will wonder at how we ever coped with analogue TV.
Scott Jeakings, England

Advanced technology has brought digital television into our lives. Like any previous invention, digital television offers a wider range of selection and higher quality. If we have accepted radio, the telephone and other things, how can we refuse digital TV? It will be an inevitable part of life. Z Zhang, UK

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