Whitehavens Digital Switchover | Technology Advancement

By: keioni

Whitehaven in Cumbria, North West England today (17 October 2007) became the first town in England to have its analogue television signal switched off.

At 0200 British Summer Time the BBC2 analogue signal was switched off. The other analogue channels will be switched off on 14 November.

Whitehaven is being closely watched. The process being followed here is the model for the digital switchover to be followed by the rest of the UK between 2008 and 2012.

The selection of Whitehaven as the first English town was announced in June 2006. Since then there has been an intense programme of public information including letters to every household, public briefings, posters, radio and TV commercials and information drop in points.

Despite this massive public information and media campaign, Digital UK, the organisation responsible for managing the digital switch over, can only say that they think "that probably 90% of homes in Whitehaven are ready for the change". With 25,000 householders in the area that still leaves 2,500 that will be unable to access any television channels. It seems breathtaking that Digital UK can only say that "probably 90%" will be ready particularly when Ofcom report that almost 85% of all households in the UK can already receive digital television. Television is now a part of the fabric of our society. Such a major, centrally imposed change demands very tight scrutiny and control.

Judging by reports in the Sunday Times and the Mail on Sunday, most Whitehaven residents welcome the change. They look forward to the greater flexibility and programming options that digital provides. Most question the cost - "If the government are going to make billions selling off the airwaves why can't they do more to help pay for the transition?"

Good Question.

We think these concerns will only increase as many people have still to upgrade secondary televisons and video or DVD recorders.

A particular shock for many homes will be the loss of many portable televisions. Most portables are used in kitchens and bedrooms and get their signal through the attached aerial. Digital requires a much stronger signal. Indoor aerials do not receive sufficient signal for use with set top boxes so all portables potentially need connected to roof mounted antennae. The alternative is to buy, not only the obligatory set-top box for every tv and recorder, but also a powered signal boosting aerial with built in siganl amplifier.

Nevertheless, for the majority of households in Whitehaven the digital switch over seems to be going smoothly. Residents welcome the greater range of viewing choice and interactive options that digital television brings. For the 10% or so still to upgrade there is still time. The local electrical retailers and aerial erectors will be rubbing their hands with glee.

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