About Freeview problems

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About Freeview problems
Thousands of UK viewers encountered problems when TV transmitters switched to digital. (Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Freeview, the "free-to-air" digital terrestrial television service, is extending across the United Kingdom as part of the country's switch from old-style analog television to a fully digital service. Despite a massive £200 million, seven-year advertising and public information campaign by Digital UK, the agency tasked by the UK government to complete the digital switch-over, thousands of viewers experienced problems when their local TV transmitters went digital.

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History

The UK government decided to change to a digital terrestrial television transmission system to free bandwidth for faster Internet and mobile telephone services. The big switch-over to the digital Freeview service began in the far west of England in April 2009. Moving gradually eastwards across the country, the digital switch-over will finish in 2012, when the final television transmitters convert to the digital-only service. From the start, some viewers encountered Freeview reception problems, including poor quality television pictures, missing channels, retuning issues and incorrect local stations.

Significance

The digital switch-over affects almost all television viewers in the United Kingdom. Digital UK says the new system is fairer, providing more people with access to digital services. Before the digital switch-over, one in four UK households could not receive the full range of digital television services for free. Although only a minority of viewers experienced problems during the switch-over, this amounts to many thousands of households, according to the Daily Mail newspaper.

Function

Viewers with digital terrestrial TV sets or set-top boxes must retune equipment when the local television transmitter switches from analog to the digital Freeview service. Many viewers had problems retuning, leading to temporary loss of their television service.

Misconceptions

Some television viewers believed they needed to buy new television sets or TV aerials to receive the Freeview service. In fact, most viewers do not need these. Inexpensive set-top boxes that plug into old-style TV sets and convert the digital signal have been designed to receive the Freeview service. Many Freeview problems were due to viewers not retuning their Freeview set-top boxes.

Prevention/solution

TV viewers can avoid Freeview reception problems by checking when local television transmitters are due to switch to a digital service. Digital UK offers a postcode checking service and help and advice about the equipment needed to watch Freeview.

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