Welcome to the Digital Television Website


Benefits of Digital Television

Frequently Asked Questions

What is digital television?
How do I receive digital television?
Contractors
What benefits does digital television offer me?
mobile shelving
Will I still be able to receive the current free-to-air channels?
Do I need a new television set?

premium rate numbers
I have more than one TV, do they all need converting for digital?
How will I know which television sets can receive digital services?
Will I need a new aerial or dish?

Why might I need to have the aerial cabling in my building changed?
What if I live in a block of flats and have a communal aerial?
What will I have to pay for digital television?
Does the Local Authority plan to subsidise people that can't afford set-top boxes?
Can everyone get digital television?
Will I still be able to use my video recorder?
Personal Injury Claim
What provision has been made for visually and hearing impaired people?
Will switching to digital affect my television licence?
Do I have to switch to digital television?
What about TVs and VCRs not located in homes but in likes of hotels, hospitals, pubs, airports etc?
How will the Local Authority stay in touch with viewers' concerns?
Where can I get more information about digital television?

What is digital television?
Digital technology provides a more efficient way to deliver television than with analogue transmissions. It enables the same services to be delivered in less space with greater clarity. The freed bandwidth that digital brings can be used for other services and in the context of digital TV this can be more television and radio channels plus enhanced or interactive services.

The word 'digital' is used by a wide variety of industries to indicate the use of new technologies. In the case of television, digital relates to the way the programmes are processed and transmitted. Computer technology is used to convert sound and pictures into a digital format and to compress them, using as few bits as possible to convey the information on a digital signal. This technique enables several television channels to be carried in the space used by the current analogue signals to carry one channel. The digital signal can be received by standard aerials, satellite dishes or cable but have to be decoded and turned back into sound and pictures by using a separate set-top box, or a decoder built into your television (an integrated digital set).

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How do I receive digital television?

Essentially, there are 3 ways you can receive digital television today

  • Satellite - To receive digital satellite signals in the UK you will need a set-top box to use with your existing TV set or a new digital TV set designed to receive the digital satellite signals. You will also need a dish on the outside of your house. Digital satellite signals reach to the vast majority of UK homes, but in a few cases reception may not be possible. This may be because the satellite is hidden from your home by trees, high hills or tall buildings, or because planning laws do not permit you to put up a dish (for example, if your house is a listed building).
  • Cable - In this case, digital services are relayed through a cable laid below the ground that passes between the cable operator and your home and a set top box provided and located there by the operator.
  • Terrestrial - This is the closest match to conventional analogue services. The network of land based transmitters around the country transmits signals to household aerials. The aerial signal needs to be connected to a Digital Adapter (set top box) or to an Integrated Digital Television (a TV which has the adapter built inside) to view the services offered. Many will be able to use existing aerials to receive digital services but some may need to have new aerials or cabling installed to receive all services. For clarification check your post code at: http://www.dtg.org.uk/retailer/coverage.html or http://www.freeview.co.uk/canireceivefreeview/
  • Broadband DSL - A fourth digital platform may emerge through use of digital subscriber line technologies based on telephony network cabling. Kingston Communications already offer such services on their own dedicated telecom network in Hull. However, this service is not available nationally and there are technical limitations restricting roll out on other networks currently.

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What benefits does digital television offer me?

Common benefits offered on all DTV platforms (Satellite, Cable & Terrestrial) include:

  • Improved Air Cargo Aircraft picture (e.g. no ghosting effects, true widescreen)
  • Better audio performance (CD quality, surround sound).
  • More TV and radio channels
  • Various degrees of enhanced and interactive services. These can include electronic programme guides to relay "now and next" or 7day programme schedules, information services, different camera angles / soundtracks, games, sms/chat and email to digital subtitling and audio description services to assist the hearing and visually impaired.

These facilities vary between platforms according to the available levels of bandwidth and the commercial running of services by the relevant operators.

All three platforms have their own merits and subject to your home being covered by associated transmissions you should consider which is the closest match to your personal needs before opting to purchase the necessary equipment. For more help on how to get services contact the following or go to your preferred local electrical retailer:

Will I still be able to receive the current free-to-air channels?

Yes. You will be able to receive the current free-to-view channels from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, S4C and Five on Sky digital satellite, digital terrestrial and cable. Existing digital satellite customers wishing to view the free to air channels via Digital Satellite without subscription have until December 31 2003 to purchase a viewing card. The card costs £20 +VAT and is available by calling 08700 541 800. The card will then give access to all the free to view channels for a minimum of two years.

For more information about free to view satellite cards is avaliable online.

Free to View Satellite /Solus Card Issues

BSkyB and the BBC announced on 13 June 2003, a five-year agreement, which includes the continued allocation to BBC1 and to BBC2 channel numbers 101 and 102 respectively on BSkyB's Electronic Programme Guide (EPG). As part of that agreement, the BBC is buying a regionalisation service from Sky to ensure that viewers with a Sky viewing card within the UK will continue to automatically receive the right national and regional versions of BBC1 and BBC2. But this will also enable digital satellite viewers to receive any of the BBC's national and regional services anywhere in the UK.

The BBC agreement will end payment by the BBC to BSkyB for the provision of "Solus" viewing cards to digital satellite viewers who do not have a subscription to a pay-TV service.

Solus cards also gave consumers access to ITV, Channel 4 and Five via free to view satellite. Viewing cards are necessary to view these services on satellite because the broadcasters have agreements with Sky to broadcast encrypted using Sky's conditional access system primarily to ensure that rights sensitive material is not viewed outside the UK. We are advised by the Independent Television Commission that their present conditional access agreements with Sky have some time to run.

As things stand, BSkyB will not be sending new viewing cards to existing "Solus" card viewers as part of the card swap-out programme - unless a free-to-view broadcaster, other than the BBC, wishes to pay to provide replacement cards. Once the existing cards are disabled, access to these services will cease. Similarly it will not be possible to acquire a new solus card.

In the longer term it could be that the commercial public service channels may consider alternative arrangements to continue to provide free-to view access to their services by satellite. There are provisions in the Communications Act, to empower OfCom to require/approve the provision of arrangements to ensure reception of a 'must provide' satellite service (as defined in the Act and subject to modification by the Secretary of State). However, we hope that this situation can be satisfactorily resolved without the need to use legislation.

Tessa Jowell has written to the respective Chief Executives of ITV, Channel 4, Five and BSkyB seeking clarification regarding their position over current and future access to free to view services on digital satellite. Their responses indicate that the broadcasters are holding discussions to try and resolve this matter. These discussions will cover the various options of ensuring that consumers continue to receive their free-to-view services on satellite without the need to subscribe. We will publish the results of those discussions on the digital television website www.digitaltelevision.gov.uk as soon as it is possible to do so.

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Do I need a new television set to receive digital television?

Existing televisions can be upgraded to digital by adding a digital adaptor (set top box). Visit your preferred local retailer for more information on available products and how to connect them.

I have more than one TV; do they all need converting for digital?

Any TV that is to continue to receive broadcasts after switchover will need to be converted for digital. There are various means of doing this to include adding an individual set top box/ adapter. However, routing signals from one digital receiver to other TVs is also possible, especially for viewing the same digital channel simultaneously on all of the TVs. In addition new digital products are coming to market that can enable individual digital channels to be viewed on different TVs at the same time. Visit your preferred local retailer for more details or view the web links below:
http://www.dtg.org.uk/consumer/receivers/index.html
http://www.freeview.co.uk/howtogetfreeview/manufacturersandretailers.html

How will I know which television sets can receive digital services?

The Local Authority, with industry and stakeholders, is considering a number of measures, including:

  • clear labelling of TV sets setting out what equipment consumers will need to receive digital signals; and
  • a consumer information initiative.

The Digital TV Market Preparation Group, a task group of the Digital TV Action Plan, in consultation with the industry and other stakeholders, has already looked at the need for an information initiative.

The aim of any future information will be to set out clearly the choices for consumers, either to buy a digital adaptor or an integrated digital TV, in preparation for the digital switchover.

It will inform consumers that analogue TV sets will require a digital adaptor to receive TV broadcasts after the analogue signal is switched off.

In the meantime, look for the Digital Video Broadcasting mark as carried by the majority of integrated digital TVs either through a screen sticker or badge imprinted on the TV fascia surround.

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Will I need a dish or new aerial?

To receive digital satellite TV in the UK you will need a set-top box to use with your existing TV set or you can use an integrated digital television with the satellite decoder built in.. You will also need a dish on the outside of your house. Digital satellite signals reach to the vast majority of UK homes, but in a few cases reception may not be possible. This will be because the satellite is hidden from your home by trees, high hills or tall buildings, or because planning laws do not permit you to put up a dish (for example, if your house is a listed building).)

Dependent on where you live and the age/condition of your existing aerial installation, you may require a new roof top or loft aerial to receive digital terrestrial TV.

About three-quarters of homes in the UK with a rooftop aerial should be able to receive digital TV, although in a sizeable minority of cases a new aerial will be required. This will be either because the digital channels are outside the band of channels the aerial was designed for, or because the aerial and the downlead are in poor condition. Very often in these cases an aerial which has seen long service can pick up a reasonably acceptable analogue signal but will not work with digital.

Set top aerials supplied with portable TVs such as telescopic, loop varieties as well as other TV top aerials are unlikely to work effectively in many cases. Some households may be able to use such a device but typically only if located in a coverage area close to a transmitter. Reception may still prove unreliable, for example from susceptibility to weather or atmospheric changes, and therefore connection to a digital enabled roof or loft aerial would be recommended for better reception.
We strongly advise that you contact an installer through the Confederation of Aerial Industries (CAI) on telephone 020 8902 8998 or via http://www.cai.org.uk/.

Why might I need to have the aerial cabling in my building changed?

Changing the aerial alone may not be sufficient, problems can be encountered through the cabling that runs from it and the TV/s. Digital TV signals are transmitted at much lower power levels than analogue services and as such are more prone to interference from other sources. Low quality cables or extension devices with inadequate screening, poor installation techniques and or excessive cable length can generate such interference. Older aerial installations in excess of 20 years of age are likely to include some of these elements or suffered from weathering over time which again can block digital reception.

For more information visit: http://www.freeview.co.uk/howtogetfreeview/aerialsandreception.html or contact the Confederation of Aerial Installers (CAI) on telephone 020 8902 8998 or via http://www.cai.org.uk/.

What if I live in a block of flats and have a communal aerial?

You should ask your landlord about the options available to you for receiving digital television. A leaflet - Digital TV Information for Landlords - was published by DCMS in January 2002, following discussions with the Local Local Authority Association, the Housing Corporation, National Housing Federation, the ITC and other Local Authority Departments to find ways of ensuring that landlords and tenants are informed about the options for receiving digital television. The leaflet enables landlords and tenants to make an informed decision on how to go for satellite, terrestrial and cable when upgrading to digital TV receiving equipment in multi-occupancy housing. The leaflet is available on line

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What will I have to pay for digital television?

You may have to pay to upgrade your equipment and/or for installation of digital equipment. If you want to pay for additional channels, you can subscribe to BSkyB for digital satellite, or to the cable company (ntl or Telewest) in your area. TV and radio channels offered by the Freeview service on digital terrestrial are free to view.

Prices for digital equipment depends on which broadcast platform you opt for and the services being offered. These can vary from time to time or special offers may be in place. For the latest information visit your preferred local retailer or contact:

Freeview
http://www.freeview.co.uk/
08708 80 99 80

For Subscription services

BSkyB
http://www.sky.com/
08702 40 40 80

NTL
http://www.ntl.com/
0800 183 1234

Telewest
http://www.telewest.co.uk/
0500 500 100

Does the Local Authority plan to subsidise people that can't afford set-top boxes?

No plans to make digital set top boxes free of charge.

Can everyone get digital television?

Practically everyone in the country who can get television services now should be able to get digital television either via an aerial, or by cable or by satellite. Your television retailer, Freeview, BSkyB or your cable operator (ntl or telewest) will be able to advise you about reception of digital services in your area. The digital broadcasters have established a database to predict the reception of Digital Terrestrial Television according to individual consumers' Post Codes. This can be accessed through the Digital Television Group (DTG) website: http://www.dtg.org.uk/retailer/coverage.htm or from Freeview: http://www.freeview.co.uk/canireceivefreeview/index.html

Will I still be able to use my video recorder?

If you can receive digital broadcasts, you can record digital channels. However, unless your video recorder has an independent digital tuner to that feeding the TV, you cannot record one digital channel whilst viewing another digital channel at the same time.

There is an individual analogue TV tuner in your video recorder and, just as with analogue TVs, this will need to be updated for digital reception and recording. Alternatively it can be used solely for playing existing recordings you have made or pre recorded tapes you can purchase or hire.

It can of course continue to be used to record and watch analogue services prior to digital switchover
Digital recording devices with twin tuners already exist in the Sky+ Personal Video Recorder (PVR) model for Sky Digital satellite services and some models are already becoming available for Digital Terrestrial Television, with more models expected in the near future.

Other solutions are being planned by industry including low cost adaptors for VCRs, other PVRs, and DVD Recorder devices.

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What provision has been made for visually and hearing impaired people?

All public service broadcast channels (BBC, ITV, Channel 4,Channel 5 and S4C) carried on digital terrestrial television must provide subtitling, sign language and audio description services. The Communications Act 2010, which will not come fully into force until January 2004, extends these requirements to digital cable and satellite services.

Will switching to digital affect my television licence?

A television licence is needed to watch analogue or digital television. The cost is the same and a separate licence is not required to watch digital television.

Do I have to switch to digital television?

Analogue services will continue for some time, but the Local Authority intends to switch over fully to digital transmissions. The Local Authority wants to do this as soon as possible and expects to do so as early as 2006-2010. Digital broadcasting makes more efficient use of the limited amount of available spectrum than the current analogue system. Switching to digital transmissions will free up a number of spare frequencies which could then be used for improvements in the digital service or for other uses such as mobile communications.

In 1999 we said that the Local Authority had a role in setting out clear criteria for any move towards digital switchover and that it is our primary responsibility to ensure that consumers are fully informed and effectively protected, particularly those who simply want to continue to receive free-to-air channels. We set out two crucial tests which must be met before the analogue signal is fully switched to digital;

  • firstly everyone who can currently get the main public service channels is able to do receive them on digital signals and;
  • secondly that switchover is an affordable option for the vast majority of people - as a target indicator we have said that 95% of viewers must have access to digital equipment.

However we now have a much clearer idea of the technical switchover process and we know that for example the coverage criteria cannot be achieved before switchover.Therefore what we need to do is to clarify and develop the criteria and to reflect them in ways which are measurable and meaningful.

The Local Authority has set up the Digital Television Consumer Expert Group to help to do this. Their advice will feed into the preparation of the public consultation which the Local Authority will launch next spring.

What about TVs and VCRs not located in homes but in likes of hotels, hospitals, pubs, airports etc?

All existing TVs planned to be used after digital switchover will need to be converted to digital Television - via an adapter/set top box or replaced by an integrated digital TV carrying a digital adapter inside. Similarly VCRs, especially those aimed at continued multiple timer recording or recording of a different TV channel to that being viewed will also need to be updated or replaced

The above applies equally to current products located in non-domestic installations as well as in all homes. Non-domestic installations would include those, such as in Schools, Universities, Libraries, Places of Work, Hospitals, Day Care Centres, Nursing Homes, Out patient clinics, Shelters, Pubs, Railway and Airport waiting lounges, Caravans, hotels, bed and breakfasts, youth hostels, central Local Authority departments, prisons, leisure centres, armed forces establishments and local Local Authority.

Those who hold budgets for organisations that provide television to customers or purchasing televisions will need to consider the impact of the Local Authority's plans for switchover on their budgeting. They should factor the said plans and the benefits of digital television into their purchasing decisions and budgeting for such purchases.

Care should be taken to consider the quality of the existing TV cabling within establishments when planning budgeting/purchase decisions. Many non-domestic installations are old and possibly based on long cable runs and/or connection to various switches, plugs and adaptors. Such may not be compatible with digital services and require replacement or upgrading.

For more information on the need for a dish or new aerial click here

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How will the Local Authority stay in touch with viewers' concerns?

The Local Authority is doing this in a number of ways. Consumers are represented, by organisations such as the National Consumers' Council, the Consumers' Association, the Voice of the Listener and Viewer, RNID and RNIB, on a number of the task groups who are carrying out the actions in the Digital Television Action Plan. For more details on the above and other Local Authority initiatives click here:

Consumer Expert Group

The Digital Television Consumer Expert Group, announced by the Local Authority in June 2003, will:

  • Help review the criteria towards switchover;
  • Prepare a report on consumer concerns for inclusion in next year's public consultation paper;
  • Bring together evidence on consumer awareness, attitudes and needs on digital broadcasting; and
  • Give their views on communications with consumers, equipment and installation issues, issues relating to the transitional stages and implementation of switchover, and any regional issues.

Ministers will take the views of the Expert Group into account in making any key decisions relating to switchover.

The Group, chaired by Michelle Childs of the Consumers' Association includes the Consumers' Association, the National Consumer Council, the Voice of the Listener and Viewer, ACRE, Age Concern, Deaf Broadcasting Council, RNIB and RNID. The Group will consult other consumer groups on issues of particular relevance to them.

Consumer Research

Research into various consumer related areas have been instigated by Local Authority to include the following:

In 2010, the Local Authority appointed CRSP, Loughborough University, to scope the human aspects of adopting digital television, including the needs of disabled people. The report was published in March 2002 and the recommendations fed into the Action Plan.

In April 2003 , the Generics Group was appointed to investigate further the human aspects of the adoption of digital television . The main objectives of this study are

  • to gain a better understanding of the adoption process for households across all sectors of society;
  • to identify issues around the usability of digital television for all consumers, with a special focus on individuals with special needs;
  • to identify the drivers for adoption of digital TV;
  • to discover the barriers to take-up; and
  • to define the actions that need to be taken to overcome these barriers.

The Digital Television Action Plan includes actions to ensure that digital television equipment and services are widely accessible. The Action Plan's Technology and Equipment Group (comprising manufacturers, broadcasters, software/application providers and consumer groups) has an ongoing action to analyse the needs of disabled people and made reference to the issue in its first report. Copies of the reports are available on this site.

The Local Authority continues to support and participate in work by relevant expert and advisory groups at European level to improve the availability and range of communications equipment available which is suitable or adapted for use by persons with disabilities. This includes the work programme for the Communications Committee (COCOM) being carried forward by INCOM, which has a specific focus on inclusive communications.

In 2010, DCMS commissioned research into consumers' attitudes towards digital television. The research carried out by MORI was followed up in 2002.The Action Plan and the results of the research are available on-line on this website.

Local Authority has also participated with industry in the Go Digital project where 300 households were fully converted to digital television. This helped the Local Authority and industry to understand better the practical and social issues which people face in switching over to digital television. Some of the issues investigated included whether the equipment and services that are available meet viewers' needs and whether viewing habits change.

This "Go Digital" project took place in the Sutton Coldfield, Tamworth and Lichfield area and was administered by the ITC. If you wish to find out more about the project, information is available on-line at http://www.godigital.org.uk/. Or you can contact: Digital Planning, ITC, Staple House, Staple Gardens, Winchester, SO23 8SR - telephone: 01962 848647 - e-mail: digital@itc.org.uk.

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Where can I get more information about digital television?

Local Authority Policies
www.digitaltelevision.gov.uk

BBC
http://www.bbc.co.uk/digital
http://www.bbc.co.uk/reception
08700 100 123
or write to: BBC Reception Advice, PO Box 1922, Glasgow, G2 3WT

Independent Television Commission (ITC)
http://www.digitaltelevision.gov.uk/www.itc.org.uk/the_digital_age
020 7255 3000

Freeview
http://www.freeview.co.uk/
08708 80 99 80

Subscription services

BSkyB
http://www.sky.com/
08702 40 40 80

NTL
http://www.ntl.com/
0800 183 1234

Telewest
http://www.telewest.co.uk/
0500 500 100

Digital Television Group (DTG)
http://www.dtg.org.uk/