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Brit TV Won't Go Digital Till 2012 231

Posted by Zonk
from the bad-reception-across-the-pond dept.
judgecorp writes "While the US switches off analog(ue) TV in 2009, it stays on in the UK till 2012, according to a timetable, the Digital Dividend Review released by the UK regulator Ofcom. And while the US taxpayer will fork out $3 billion, there's no mention of government subsidising the switchover in the UK - apart from the licence fee which Brits pay for the BBC, or course. The good news is that the 112 prime MHz of spectrum freed up will be used for wireless broadband, rural coverage for wireless services, and unlicensed spectrum for data. All things that will keep us so busy, we won't bother to watch TV, anyway."
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Brit TV Won't Go Digital Till 2012

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  • Inaccurate headline (Score:5, Informative)

    by Bogtha (906264) on Friday November 18, 2005 @04:07PM (#14065627)

    I've got digital TV now. Millions have. The headline should read "Brits will keep analogue TV around until 2012". This isn't about getting digital telly, it's about how long we keep analogue around for the people who don't upgrade.

    • Here in Denmark we start switching next summer. It doesn't matter all that much because most "serious" viewers are on cable or satelite. In Belgium cable has a penetration of over 98%. This thing is mostly going to affect caravan owners I think. The decoders will probably drop in price so fast you won't believe it. Think about it: no single company to sit on the market and a device which is 100% electronic and has no moving parts. I think I will shell out a few extra and get one with a harddisk.
      • Re:Cable (Score:3, Interesting)

        by pe1chl (90186)
        Cable is not a safe haven for analog viewers...
        Here in the Netherlands cable companies are quickly converting everything to digital.
        All analog channels are available in digital as well, plus some extras, "for free" (= within the analog subscription price).
        Premium channels will be switched off in analog coming jan 1st, and cable companies offer free decoders (normal price about 100 euro) to anyone subscribing to an extra package.
        My guess is that by this time next year they will be stating that "many viewers
    • by ratbag (65209)
      ... unless you live in the South East, but out of sight of Crystal Palace. No prospect of a digital transmitter able to reach my neck of the woods until Dover and Tunbridge Wells get upgraded in 2012. I'm one of the "people who can't upgrade" rather than a "who don't"

  • Hmm (Score:2, Insightful)

    by pHatidic (163975)
    What exactly are the benefits of digital TV anyway? I don't understand this HD TV and digital TV stuff, to me TV is good enough as is.
    • What exactly are the benefits of digital TV anyway?
      More channels in the same bandwidth, higher resolution, less interference.
      • Re:Hmm (Score:2, Interesting)

        by ClickOnThis (137803)

        What exactly are the benefits of digital TV anyway?

        More channels in the same bandwidth, higher resolution, less interference.


        And unfortunately, compression. I've ranted about this before [slashdot.org].

        Maybe HDTV will be good enough to make this moot, but I have had enough bad experiences with regular digital TV (as it is now supplied on some cable channels) to envy the UK's decision to wait until 2012.
    • Several things (Score:4, Informative)

      by jfengel (409917) on Friday November 18, 2005 @04:26PM (#14065791) Homepage Journal
      Partly, it's about resolution; HDTV has more pixels, which makes for a nicer picture. And screen shape: the new digital TV supports wide-screen, which will make for better movie-viewing without having to compromise on full-screen vs. widescreen.

      It's also a lot about bandwidth. The new digital signals are more efficient than the analog ones, so you can cram more channels into the spectrum. (Which means you don't always get higher resolution; they can cram 4 old-resolution channels into the space for one high-def signal. And a station can choose.)

      And there's even more flexibility: a digital signal makes it easier to encode other kinds of signal: foreign languages, hypertext, etc.

      But mostly it's about freeing up a certain set of frequencies so that they can be sold off for cell phones, wifi, etc. That's very valuable bandwidth at a frequency which can be better taken advantage of by small, hand-held devices. Some of it is allocated to emergency channels.
      • I'm pretty sure that digital (terrestrial) TV in the UK isn't HDTV. So even after analog is cut off, they STILL won't have HD. They might have widescreen, but it won't be HD.

        The requirement to decode signals at the maximum resolution is one of the reasons why tuners still cost so much in the USA. Even if it's being shown on a crappy 3" LCD, the tuner still has to be able to decode full-resolution 720p and 1080i video which can then be downsampled.

        One other advantage of digital TV is that it is immune t

        • It still bugs me that the HDTV decoders in the US are still so expensive. You can get it on board a video card for $50, but a full box is still around $150 at least. Since the rest of the computer is serving primarily as a power supply, that seems kinda pricey.
          • It still bugs me that the HDTV decoders in the US are still so expensive. You can get it on board a video card for $50, but a full box is still around $150 at least. Since the rest of the computer is serving primarily as a power supply, that seems kinda pricey.

            There's not only no power supply, but there's also no MPEG decoder (which has licensing fees in addition to silicon consts), no display buffer RAM to decode the MPEG into, no D/A converters or analog outputs to your TV set, probably no Dolby Digital

            • MPEG-2 decoder chips are pretty mass-market and cheap these days...

              The big money for DTV decoders are the novel demodulators, 8-VSB (with additional anti-multipath DSP $$$) in the US, or COFDM in the EU.
      • Who cares about more channels? They can't even find anything to fill the ones they already have, 90% repeats, soaps and reality TV. The digital channels are repeats of repeats.

        You need a funny box next to the TV, it takes ages to change the channel, and it often freezes up.

        Teletext doesn't work either. I think this whole digital thing is just a way to fleece us of money: we have to pay for boxes and aerial upgrades, just to get what we already have anyway.
    • Re:Hmm (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ThosLives (686517)
      I agree. Besides, I don't watch broadcast or cable TV any more; my TV is simply a monitor for my DVD player and video game console. Of course, once they switch over to BR-DVD or HD-DVD, I'm probably not even going to buy any more versions of my movies. Too bad for the entertainment and advertising industries, but that's probably about $50/month back in my pocket instead of some others'.

      But, back to the original post - aside from the "more efficient use of the spectrum" what does going digital do? For that

    • You can cram more channels, plus you get consistent video quality as long as you can receive a signal, meaning no ghosting etc.
      Example, whereas before you could only receive one tv channel on a single frequency with digital it multiplexes multiple channels on the same frequency.
      Also, for digital recording devices it's fantastic.. for example, I own a Humax Duovisio 9200T PVR. I'm not only able to record from multiple channels at the same time to the 160GB hdd (it's got two digital tuners in it) but i'm al
    • Traditional analog TV is based on technology that was designed decades ago. It uses a lot of bandwidth to transmit comparatively little information, and it's prone to interference. But at the time it was implemented, that was the best we knew how to do.

      Since then, we've invented microprocessors and advanced digital signaling techniques. This means that we can transmit a LOT more information in the same bandwidth, or (as is the case with digital HDTV) somewhat more info in less bandwidth. Also, interfere
    • by DrXym (126579)
      Let's see - the UK used to have 5 terrestrial analogue channels. Now it has 30 or so digital channels. When analogue gets switched off, the bandwidth will increase and the number of channels will go up.

      The same for satellite & cable.

      • Re:Hmm (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Tony Hoyle (11698)
        Don't bet on it.

        The extra frequencies are earmarked for sale to the mobile phone companies - that's why the government is pushing so hard for digital.. it'll make millions selling off the unused space.

        *if* any frequencies become available in 2012 for TV, then there'll be a bunfight between the BBC who'll probably want to start an HDTV channel (1 or 2 per frequency), and the commercial broadcasters (8 channels per frequency). 8*cash > 2*cash... follow the money...

        • by DrXym (126579)
          I'm sure the radio spectrum will be rationalised which you can read as selling chunks off. But even so, there will still be more space available for more channels and the main channels such as BBC1 & 2 will almost certainly be broadcast in HD. As for the remainder, I think the debacle over 3G where networks paid BILLIONS to own a chunk of airspace that customers are barely interested in will give future sales pause for thought.
    • by TheSync (5291)
      Is your desktop 640x480? ;)

      No wait, I suppose here on Slashdot a lot of you have RS-232 console terminals...
  • I don't care (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dorkygeek (898295) on Friday November 18, 2005 @04:11PM (#14065661) Journal
    I don't care if the signal is delivered in analog or digital form. I am only interested in getting more fscking pixels than with the old PAL standard!

    • Re:I don't care (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Tony Hoyle (11698)
      You don't get more pixels. In some cases you get *less*! A good analogue picture is *far* better than a digital one.

      The broadcast is either 16:9 or 4:3 but the number of pixels doesn't change, only the aspect ratio of the display, so 4:3 will look higher resolition (as the horizontal pixels will be smaller). Standard definition is 720x576.

      Some channels (E4 for example) are conserving space by transmitting at a lower resolution still - 544x576 which is 25% less than standard resolution (E4+1 is at full re
  • by Anita Coney (648748) on Friday November 18, 2005 @04:14PM (#14065677) Homepage
    I agree with the Masked Engineer. Don't have a hard date, merely print "a label on every single device with an analog TV tuner explaining to consumers that there will come a day when that tuner will cease to function and an 'adapter' will be needed at extra cost."

    That puts the consumer on notice and allows broadcasters to make the switch when they're ready. If they're ready sooner, the consumers were warned. If it's later, it's later.

    http://www.tvtechnology.com/features/Masked-Engine er/f_mario_orazio-09.21.05.shtml [tvtechnology.com]
    • The people who stand to make money industry, tv manufactures, and the FCC(reselling unused bandwidth) know that 2 things will happen:
      People wills ee the sticker and put off buying a TV
      Everyone will get very upset that there purchase won't be anygood, and apply pressure to the FCC to lift the mandatory switch.

      Espcially when it's 3 billion dollar cost begins to make headlines.

      I WOuld like to write one though:
      "This analog Television you are purchasing will be no good soon, and you will have to by a digital tun
      • Oh it certainly won't happen. First, it makes sense. Thus, the US government could never do it. Second, manufactures do NOT want warning stickers. As you say some will simply put off buying new TVs. Manufacturers would rather have consumers buy now, get screwed, then be forced to buy again in a few years.
        • I heard on the radio not long ago where a congrassman was proposing using our taxes to pay for converterboxes for people.

          Second, manufactures do NOT want warning stickers. As you say some will simply put off buying new TVs

          If the manufacturer doesn't want a warning sticker, all they have to do is stick a digital tuner in the thing.

          My thought was that if the .gov is going to get involved, they would have been better off to have mandated that all TV's sold would have digital tuning capability by 2004.

          Why? Wel
  • We have Digital (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Brit TV Won't Go Digital Till 2012? Erm. No. We've had digital TV for years. According to a recent BBC News artice (which I can't find) over 60% of the population has some form of digital TV reciever. 2012 is when the last region will loose it's analogue signal. The big switch off of analogue starts in 2008. One area of Wales has already had it's analogue singles turned off.
    • ah, but in that case it was a pilot scheme and everyone was given a free digibox if they didn't have one already.
      What I'm more concerned about is the learning curve, rather than the price though. Some members of the elderly community (for wont of a better word) have enough difficulty getting their heads around a normal analogue TV with 5 channels where you press 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6 for video for the channel you want. Hand them a digibox plugged into their TV and tell them "it's 6 for video and 'AV' for regu
  • I was thinking, that instead of a "hard cutover", where the analog frequencies are cut off on a particular date, there should be a phased approach where the transmit power is cut down by say 20% per year. That way, people's analog sets won't just go suddenly blank, and there will be less consumer backlash from cutting the analog signals.
    • There is going to be a "soft cutover" in the UK, but slightly different from the method you suggest.

      Analog transmitters will start to be switched off, area by area, starting in 2008; the final switch off will be in 2012. One community in Wales has already had its analog transmitters switched off voluntary and is now entirely digital.

  • "The switchover will happen first in places like Scotland which are not likely to interfere with the rest of Europe."

    Apparently these guys have never heard of Sir William Wallace.
  • Whereas in Sweden (Score:4, Interesting)

    by k98sven (324383) on Friday November 18, 2005 @04:24PM (#14065774) Journal
    In Sweden they've already started shutting down the analog networks. Phase one (the island of Gotland and towns of Gävle and Motala) just started a month ago.

    It's proceeding stepwise but all analog transmitters should be completely off-line by Dec 13.

    Of course, Swedes aren't quite as TV-addicted as USians. (IIRC the statistic is an average of about 2 hours a day vs 4.5)
    • The UK is shutting down analogue by region too. Some regions will have analogue for years longer than other places. I suppose it all depends on how much congestion / interference / population there is from one region to the other.
    • True. But it is safe to say that the early shutdown is very controversial. There are still very few, if any, tv sets to buy that can receive the digital signal by itself. You need a box containing a digital receiver that translates the broadcasted signal before it is received by the tv. Of course, this means that vcr recorders need their own box, and programmatic recording is ruined. I think it was much to early to take this step. Especially since Sweden is such a small market and there is no big demand for
      • Your information is out of date. 'few if any' TVs? How about every major TV manufacturer has committed to selling digital TVs... you can't but a large screen TV nowadays without the support, and for smaller ones it's getting there slowly (support for portables still sucks though.. the only portables with DTT are LCD ones for stupid money).

        Walk into your local Dixons/Currys. Over 50% of the TVs on display will have DTT tuners in them... it doesn't add anything to the cost any more (there was a time when i
        • By FCC regulation, all new television sets sold in the United States from 1 March 2007 forward must contain a digital TV (DTV) tuner. Currently, all sets including models with greater than 36" diagonal screens must have a DTV tuner, and by next March, all sets from 25" to 36" diagonal screens must have a DTV tuner.

          There is one way out of it - a television set is not a television set if it has no analog tuner, in which case it is a monitor, and needs no DTV tuner.
  • by IANAAC (692242) on Friday November 18, 2005 @04:24PM (#14065776)
    about seeing an American flag behind a British TV story.
  • They are just hoping that the Maya were right and the world ends on the winter solstice in 2012. That way, there's the off chance that they don't have to make the switch.
  • by pe1chl (90186) on Friday November 18, 2005 @04:31PM (#14065845)
    ... these switchovers are not planned in advance but decided in closed rooms by a government that needs to close the budget.

    A couple of months ago it was decided that analog transmission would stop on jan 1st, 2006.
    That would give analog viewers only about 4 months to look for an alternative.
    Only part of the country is covered by digital terrestrial TV, the remainder (which is the less densely populated part, so viewers would be less likely to have cable available) would have to switch to satellite TV.
    These both a subscription services, while the original analog service can be freely received by anyone.

    However, today it was decided to cancel the switchover and consider it again.
    Don't you just love those opportunistic people? Need money... cut something off. Too much protest? reconsider it.
    • A couple of months ago it was decided that analog transmission would stop on jan 1st, 2006. That would give analog viewers only about 4 months to look for an alternative.

      I have a (possibly) worse reason that that decision was terrible. How many months do the TV stations have to convert to Digital? There is a lot of new equipment that has to be bought to transmit in digital, as opposed to analog. It also has to be planned for and ordered months ahead of time.
  • by CastrTroy (595695) on Friday November 18, 2005 @04:35PM (#14065892) Homepage
    What happens in 2009 when everything is supposed to be digital, and Canada still hasn't gone digital. Will it cause interference in places close to the border? I haven't heard of any plans for canada making the switch.
    • At least no more than there is now. There's not a 'switch' that will get flipped in 2009. Broadcasters will still be licensed a spectrum to operate in so they don't interfere with each other. Whether you are sending a digital or Analog TV channel, the spectrum will be licensed. For instance, let's say there's a Channel 4 on the US side of the border and a channel 5 on the Canadian side. For now, broadcasters are keeping their analog channels and adding digital on new spectrum. When channel 4 starts to
    • There are already over-the-air digital TV broadcasts in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. Canada has chosen the same digital standard as the US, the ATSC system. CBC and CTV have already begun HD programming. More info here [www.cdtv.ca].

      Incontournable la Haute Definition!
  • Many times in bad weather such as snow storms, satellite TV goes out. Will digital broadcasts have the same problems? With analogue, it sometimes gets a little hard to make things out, and sounds a little staticy, but in the even of an emergency, you can still get the information across. With digital TV, when the signal starts getting lost, you often lose the entire picture and sound.
    • YMMV as usual. I have a freeview box, so watch digital TV. My downstairs elderly neighbour hadn't switched, and was still watching analog tv. She was always having trouble with snowy reception in storms and bad weather (which we get quite a lot of, unsurprisingly) while my system was fine. I finally convinced her to switch, helped her set it up, and now she's very happy with the clarity of BBC and the extra channels on terrestial digital.

      You're right about satellite though; my dad's dish unavoidably pointed
      • Note that this is not related to analog/digital.
        With analog satellite you had just the same bad weather problems as with digital. The degradation went less abrubtly (first some snow appears before the picture is lost completely) but you need about the same signal for good reception.

        There is more rain attenuation on the satellite frequencies than on terrestrial.
    • Speaking as one who has the UK's analogue, Freeview (digitial terestial) and Sky (digital satalite) here's my experiences of the different options.

      As a caveat, my analogue signal is perfect, as far as I can tell. I never have a problem with ghosting, snowy picture or anything else no matter the conditions.

      With Freeview, certain blocks of channels dissapear if it's foggy, raining, too warm or too windy - depending on the conditions I might loose all the bbc channels, or all the itv channels (no real loss th
      • Well I'm on digital cable and there are no problems whatever with reception that can be attributed to the weather. The only problems I've ever had have been due to incompetent NTL engineers.

        The picture quality can be poor in certain circumstances though, due to the compression techniques used.
    • Satellite TV has rain fade because DBS is carried on Ku-band microwaves (and soon to be Ka-band microwaves). The choice of analog or digital modulation makes no difference.

      Back in the day people watched satellite TV on those huge C-band dishes. The lower frequency was less vulnerable to rain fade, but it required larger antennas to get the same carrier-to-noise. Back then, there was no digital video compression, so they used analog video. There is still some use of C-band for commercial video distributi
  • How about.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hangareighteen (31788) on Friday November 18, 2005 @05:16PM (#14066248) Homepage
    Giving some of that "prime" 112Mhz of electromagnetic real-estate to
    the Police, Fire, and Emergency response departments across this country.
    Because, you know, they need it. But first, a short story.

    HDTV first came to the United States partially as a ploy by the
    broadcast companies in this country. Congress got together and suggested that
    the public broadcast companies (CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX, and even WB) weren't even
    making use of 1% of the UHF broadcast television spectrum, and put forth the
    crazy idea that some of these businessmen give up a resource that they didn't
    even have plans to use.

    Of course, the industry response is predictable. They launch a
    lobbying and marketing campaign at full strength; the subject, HDTV. They
    get all their cronies from Japan to put together all this neat-looking fancy
    broadcast equipment and flat-screen high-definition televisions. They talk
    about all the capabilities, the greater services they will be able to
    offer the public through this new technology.

    The catch? HDTV needs more bandwidth. Oh, by the way, we suddenly
    have plans to use that UHF spectrum you were talking about. All of it. The
    broadcast companies basically strong-arm congress by telling them that if the
    public is thinking of taking "their" excess and unused bandwidth away, then
    they won't have any way to bring this new HDTV stuff into the country. And
    you know how Americans are about TV, and you especially know how American
    Representatives are about Big Corproate Money (of which TV has *tons*).

    Congress, of course, capitulated. They did, however, tell the
    broadcast companies that they had a limited about of time to make the switch.

    This, of course, was all the way back in the 80's. Since then,
    we've heard more and more from the broadcast regime about how cool HDTV is
    going to be, and how we're already making the technology better before
    we've even deployed it, and how hard it is to implement a brand-new
    nation-wide television standard, and how expensive the components have to
    be because this is high-def afterall.

    The FCC has delivered a deadline. Rescheduled that deadline, allowed
    the industry to go past that deadline, and then reschedule again. Congress,
    for the most part, has been pretty much unconcerned with this whole mess.
    And the American public is as uneducated and clueless as ever.

    The whole reason congress got together on this issue way back in the
    80s is because Police, Fire and Emergency departments were starting to feel
    the crunch of their own bandwith limitations. In order to operate as
    efficiently as possible, these organizations were among the first to start
    using digital packet radio networks to convey data to the field. They also
    have other constraints as police forces get larger, and criminals become
    more sophisticated. Adding even more to these problems is the fact that
    many large American Cities have many large American Buildings that make it
    more difficult to get a radio signal through.

    All of this became disaterously apparent on 9/11. Police and Fire
    response units even a SINGLE FLOOR away from each other found it impossible
    to communicate using their current radio equipment. None of the ground units
    were able to coordinate with the units actually in the building. No one
    standing on the ground could even tell those people risking their lives about
    the buildings imminent collapse, or to provide them with information that
    • Re:How about.. (Score:4, Informative)

      by TheSync (5291) on Friday November 18, 2005 @06:44PM (#14067159) Journal
      This is totally BS. Spectrum is wasted in analog TV because analog NTSC TV has tremendous problems with interference between adjancent channels and same channels in neighboring markets. Digital ATSC is less vulnerable to these kinds of interference, and more channels can be packed tighter, reducing overall spectrum needs.

      Also there is absolutely no shortage of spectrum for "first responders." There were communications problems on 9/11, but they had to do with systems that were not tested properly, not interoperational between police and fire, not operational (like a repeater that wasn't turned on), and human error during a trying time. RF bandwidth was not an issue.

      Digital ATSC takes up the same bandwidth as analog NTSC, 6 MHz, although channels can be packed tighter on the dial. The 6 MHz provides about 19 Mbps using 8-VSB modulation, and those 19 Mbps can deliver a single-program MPEG2 transport stream, or a multi-program one, including mixes of high definition and standard definition resolution programs, or even multicast IP encapsulated in MPEG2 transport packets.

      For example, one school system uses their ATSC transmission to provide 4 SD program channels and deliver IP video-on-demand to classrooms.

      Now I won't argue that people are not making money on the digital transition, but they sure are not broadcasters. Right now, digital is a money hole for broadcasters, with their money going to transmitter manufacturers, MPEG transport stream server and multiplexer companies, HD camera and master control switching companies, HD editing software companies, and the consumer money is flowing to HD set manufacturers.
  • Man: "Look! We finally got our digital TV!"
    Woman: "Quick turn it on!"
    Newreporter: "This just in! A meteor will hit the earth in 20 minutes... Machines have become sentient and are attacking humans... And the sun is collapsing into a black hole!"
    Man: "Oh bloody hell!"
    Woman: "I told you not to mock the Mayan statues on our honey moon!"
    Man: "Mayans be damned, I've just lost my bet of 500 quid to Arthur at the pub over that Terence McKenna fellow!"
  • Switchover Map (Score:2, Informative)

    by jdtanner (741053)
    Actually, the switchover will start in 2008 ( http://www.dvb.org/index.php?id=229 [dvb.org]) and will finish in 2012. Have a look the the map of the switchover times at http://www.dtg.org.uk/consumer/switchover_map.html [dtg.org.uk]

    BTW, I've already got digital television, as have about 66% of the rest of us Brits :-)

    Cheers,
    JohnT
  • One area has already been switched off. A far off island in Scotland decided to go all digital.
  • Yes, I know who. But they are the same people who previously said the U. S. would switch over in 2006.

    I think it will be very interesting to see what happens. Relatively few people with good, working TV sets are ditching them for HDTV sets. A lot of people find it hard to see why one should get rid of a perfectly good 26" TV that has a beautiful picture and cost $600 when you bought it twenty years ago, in order to buy a $2000 TV and a whole bunch of new gear to go with it.

    And while you don't need to be fab
    • You don't need a new TV, your current one will work just fine. The only new thing you need is a reciever that will convert the Digital signal to Analog.
    • The U.S. House of Representatives just passed a bill to pay $1 billion for digital set-top-box converters, along with a Dec. 31, 2008 analog TV turn-off.

      While not everyone has an HDTV, plenty of people have an SDTV which can receive downconverted analog video...it will look nicer than NTSC analog.
  • Official site [digitaltelevision.gov.uk] shows phased switch off starting 2008.

    One isolated village in Wales has already done this as test (they got their Set Top Boxes free).

    Most areas can already get Digital TV in one form or another (Satellite or terestial).

    Get the facts right please.

  • The U.S. House of Representatives just passed a bill with a Dec. 31, 2008 analog TV turn-off, and just a $1 billion subsidy for digital set-top-boxes ($40 coupons, two per household). This was part of H.R. 4241, "Deficit Reduction Act of 2005"
  • by rklrkl (554527) on Friday November 18, 2005 @06:28PM (#14067030) Homepage
    With the UK analogue TV switch-off coming in 2008-2012 (very poor that the Slashdot story doesn't make it clear that it's a 4-year phased switch-off starting *before* the US switch off their analogue TV!), I find it quite amazing that:

    1. UK electrical retailers are still selling analogue-only TV sets - these will require a separate set-top box to be usable beyond the analogue switch-off and even then, you'll be playing the horrible "2-remote control juggle" that you currently have to (heck, neither of my 2 different digital terrestrial set-top boxes let me change the volume level using the boxes remote control !! Madness !).

    2. TV sets with built-in terrestrial digital tuners (known as "IDTV"s here in the UK) still seem to be fairly scarce (and far more expensive than buying an analogue TV set and a separate set-top box instead).

    And don't forget that the UK still hasn't introduced HDTV yet - it'll be coming to Sky Digital satellite next year, but there's been no announcement about it for terrestrial digital at all. The horrible thing is that we could be talking about a repeat performance a few years down the road after analogue is switched-off - people start replacing their TV sets and recorders with digital versions, only to find out that they won't work fully when HDTV is introduced.

    On a slightly different vein, I think the BBC have been very clever at promoting the "buy a cheap digital set-top box for under 50 pounds" adverts (yes, they're ads really) they've been running for the past 2 years or so. It effectively enforces the licence fee because those cheap boxes do *not* have a smart card capability, so the only effective non-ad/sponsorship alternative to the licence fee (encrypted subscription, which is how I think the BBC should be funded, since you can't dodge the subs assuming the encryption isn't broken) is now virtually dead in the water thanks to the millions of non-smart card Freeview boxes in UK homes now.

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