The digital switchover – all your queries answered

Photo credit: VisMedia +44 (0)20 7613 2555
Photo credit: VisMedia +44 (0)20 7613 2555
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Still unsure what is happening with the analogue TV signal switch off happening right now?

Digital UK’s John Askew answers questions put to him on your behalf by Spalding Guardian news editor Andrew Brookes

Which switchover region are we actually in? I know people in our patch are able to watch Yorkshire, East Midlands and Anglia...

Image converted using ifftoany

Image converted using ifftoany

That is the biggest single issue here. The problem in West Yorkshire, say, is that some people can’t get Freeview there – the geography is very accomodating here.

Officially this part of the world is supposed to be in Yorkshire but that’s a bit of a misnomer. Lots seem to prefer East Midlands or Anglia. They all have to switch but on the dates relevant for that region.

What if someone isn’t sure which region they watch?

If your BBC is Lincolnshire/Yorkshire and ITV Calendar then your transmitter is at Belmont and you are a Yorkshire viewer. If your BBC is East Midlands and ITV Central then your aerial is pointing to Waltham and you’re in East Midlands. Anglia and Look East viewers are pointing to Tacolnestone in Norfolk.

When do they all switch over?

If you are a Belmont viewer you switch over on August 3 and 17. Waltham is on August 17 and 31. Tacolnestone switches over on November 9 and 23.

Why two dates?

The reason why they go off in two stages is so that anybody who has not already got digital doesn’t lose all of their channels overnight and if anyone has a problem they wouldn’t be able to watch anything. BBC Two is switched off on the first date and the rest of the channels go on the second date.

I’ve got Freeview already – why do I have to re-tune? Might this improve the picture/signal quality?

It’s a completely new signal. Once analogue is switched off the digital signal will be a more powerful signal. One of the reasons the switchover is happening is that the power should be stronger and it should carry a lot further. You will have to retune on both dates. You should do a “first time installation” to clear everything already on the box.

I’ve already had to retune. Have I already been switched over?

No, when other areas were switched over it had a knock-on effect on the signal at Waltham which is why Freeview customers had to retune. The switchover will still go ahead on the dates above.

Will I end up watching a region that I don’t want?

The strongest signal should be the one that’s picked up as your main channel but the problem is aerials don’t differentiate. A digital box will automatically pick up everything it sees when it scans for channels.

Here, they tend to put Belmont (Yorkshire) first because it has the lowest frequency. The other channels will still be there but might end up stored at a higher number. It’s a bit like in the old days when you might be able to tune a different BBC One to say channel seven.

What if someone is worried about the switchover?

The best thing to do is get some help and advice. There is an official help scheme which is open to the over-75s, people with serious disabilities, people in care and people who are blind or partially sighted.

That’s run by the BBC and paid for by the licence fee.

They will send somebody who can install a digital box. They will check the aerial and cabling and if the person wants to upgrade they fit a satellite dish. The person does have to pay £40 for the standard service – it’s more if they want things like a satellite dish or recorder. You can get a set top box for £15 but you get a 12-months aftercare service and they will come out to you. Everyone who is eligible has had a letter but if you haven’t responded you should get in touch. The number is 0800 4085900.

Are they the only groups who receive help?

If you are 65-74 you are not eligible because you are not quite old enough but if you still need that bit of help Digital Outreach are running a programme, which is organised by the Hull Community and Voluntary Services and goes through people like Age UK and the voluntary service.

We’ve also run a series of roadshows.

We’ve already been to Spalding but we will be back again on the Yorkshire switchover dates, on August 3/4 and 17/18, to help. People can also visit our website,, or call 0845 6505050.

If people ring up, all we need is their postcode and make and model number of their equipment and we can talk them through how to retune over the phone.

Do people have to go out and buy a new TV and aerial?

You don’t need to buy a new telly – you can convert it with a box.

If you have got an aerial that receives the channels with a good clear picture now you will get good clear picture afterwards. There is no such thing as a digital aerial but there are what some people call “pre Channel 5 aerials” and wideband aerials that receive Channel 5. If you have an aerial that doesn’t receive Channel 5 then you won’t get every channel but you should definitely get 15/16 ‘public service channels’ including BBC and ITV.

Don’t buy anything from cold callers – nobody from the help scheme will come to the house unless they have made an appointment. We do market research for Digital UK but we don’t sell equipment. If you can buy from one of the Registered Digital Installers (RDI).

What if you have an indoor aerial for a TV in your bedroom?

You can convert some indoor aerials with a digibox if they have the right connecting leads. They don’t work as well as the aerial on your roof but in theory any aerial in good condition can pick up a digital signal.

Are people with Sky TV affected?

You don’t have to retune on Sky – the signal has no relation to the terrestrial network. But we do find an awful lot of people have Sky on their main set and another in the bedroom say with an aerial. That one will need to be converted.

Have there been problems in areas already switched over?

There was a slight issue in Granada where people were picking up Welsh television. That’s the same as the overlap we discussed here but people here are used to it and seem to recognise that there is this choice of regions.

What’s your message to readers?

Don’t worry. A lot of people say after they have been through the switch over that if they had known how easy it was they wouldn’t have worried about it. We think most people have got the equipment here already. We think about 95-6% of people already have what they need.

The main thing is it’s coming, it’s fairly close to the time and there’s plenty of help out there if people want it. It might be an idea to practise retuning your box so you know it works before the switchover.