Page last updated at 10:17 GMT, Thursday, 17 December 2009

Digital switchover hits viewers in north-west England

Digital TV channel
For some viewers in the North West, BBC Wales is their top channel

Television viewers in north-west England are still struggling to get local stations after the digital switchover earlier this month.

The BBC has received complaints from viewers who received Welsh TV instead of their usual regional channels.

Digital UK said 7.2 million viewers had switched over in that area and about 6,000 contacted their advice line about "overlapping signals".

Analogue TV will be switched off across the UK by 2012.

The North West is the biggest region to lose its analogue signal so far. Homes have been affected across the Granada TV area in Cheshire, Lancashire, Greater Manchester and Merseyside.

Eric Southworth, from Fleetwood in Lancashire, said: "I have been getting BBC Wales, ITV Wales and Channel Four Wales [S4C].

"I don't understand Welsh."

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Eric Southworth has to go through a complex process to tune his television to the correct region.

The BBC's North of England correspondent, Nick Ravenscroft, who has been investigating the problem, said the newly-boosted digital TV signal was so strong, Mr Southworth's TV set had been picking up services from a transmitter near Wrexham.

"When televisions scan the frequencies they start from the lowest and work upwards. The signal bringing Welsh TV from Wrexham is at a lower frequency than the transmitter for north-west England, which is near Bolton," our correspondent explained.

"So, the Welsh services are assigned to the first channels. The North West services are typically on channels in the 800s."

He said viewers had been complaining about the problem and the lack of solutions from the official helpline.

"The minority is vocal," he added. "But judging by their e-mails, intensely annoyed, not least because many have spent money upgrading their equipment or aerial in preparation for the switchover."

Similar problems occurred in the West Country when that area switched over earlier this year.

'Overlapping signals'

Simon Crine, from Digital UK, the company leading the UK's switchover to digital TV, said he understood the problems had caused "angst and irritation".

He said viewers could get help re-tuning their TV sets via the Digital UK helpline.

"We took an enormous number of calls on the days of switchovers and in Granada, the north-west region, nine out of 10 people went away happy," he said.

"One in 10 reported overlapping signals from Wales and we tried to help those people through that process," he said.

The switchover started in 2007 and will continue until 2012. Analogue channels will be switched off region by region and replaced with free-to-air digital TV and radio services (Freeview).

Switchover has already been completed in the Granada TV region and parts of east and central Wales. It will be rolled out to the other regions of England and Wales - as well as Scotland and Northern Ireland - between now and 2012.

Anyone in need of assistance with the digital switchover should contact the Digital UK helpline on 08456 505050.

There is also a dedicated phone number for disabled people and those aged 75 and over who need assistance - the BBC Switchover Help Scheme on 0800 408 7654.



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