Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland until I return to the Murcia region of Spain in the Autumn for a month or so
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Friday, 23 January 2004

Digital broadcasting - the pace of change hots up in the UK

I went 'digital' about 8 months ago and now have two of my four television sets equipped with the necessary digital decoders. One of the decoder's signals can in fact be accessed by televisions in any room in my home. I can also, of course, receive many of the digital radio programmes now being broadcast as channels on digital terrestrial and satellite platforms. As this story makes clear, the government's plan to switch off analogue broadcasting signals for television and radio at an indeterminate date in the future may be slowing the pace of change, so far as consumers purchasing new equipment is concerned. The article proposes a definite switch-off date (say 2010) so that people know it's for real. I think there is probably some sense in this argument, provided that poorer people are assisted to make the change - I am no socialist, but it would certainly be massively retrograde for all sorts of reasons to allow a two-tier ability to receive broadcasts to develop.

In fact, I am expecting delivery of a new analogue widescreen television in the next couple of days, to replace a unit in my main living area. Why this seemingly short-sighted step? Well, I don't think it is quite so short-sighted as might at first appear - specially as dedicated digital television receivers are capable of receiving only the free terrestrial digital broadcasts and not those which are broadcast by satellite, for which (unless one opts for a basic range of channels, mostly available for free by terrestrial signal, too) a monthly fee is payable. So even if the analogue signal is switched off in 2010, my new unit will still function using a set-top box. It is undeniable that the lack of VCRs with digital reception capability built-in, so far as I am aware, has not been understood by most people, though. What this means is that once analogue signals disappear, one would need a digital de-coder for each of television and VCR (or DVD-RW - which are steadily reducing in price at present) if one wishes to watch a different programme from one simultaneously being recorded.

So far I haven't bothered buying a digital radio, though, specially as I can listen to digital radio through my television set-top boxes, but as the cost of the radios is coming down all the time, I am sure it will not be long before I do. Once, of course, I have verified that a digital radio signal is avaialble in my area - last time I checked my postcode for availability, it hadn't reached here yet. Like most people, I have numerous radio receivers so it will be some years before I contemplate replacing them all, though - but a six-year lead-in for analogue switch-off doesn't seem too unreasonable to me.

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