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How to prepare for the looming digital switchover

The phrase ‘digital switchover’ was confusing from the start. Who did the switchover affect? Would this be an automated process, or would it require action on behalf of each household?

Our concern was tempered by the knowledge that the digital switchover would not be completed until 2012. Some of us put off buying a digi-box, deferred the TV upgrade and confined the concept of the digital switchover to the furthest recesses of our minds.

Of course, 2012 is now here, and those still watching analogue television must prepare to lose all their stations. The hourglass, it’s fair to say, has almost run out of sand.

By 18th April, the London area will have embraced the digital switchover, just as other UK cities have previously made the transition from analogue to digital. Having held out until the last possible moment, analogue signals in the London area will shortly switch over to digital in two stages; the first on 4th April, and the second on the 18th.

Freeview televisions and set-top boxes

If you have a modern flatscreen television, you will already receive a digital signal, and thus will be able to tune into an array of free-to-air channels, from Sky News to Film4. If, however, your set was purchased some time ago, and occupies the corner of your living room like a relic of a bygone age, you may require a digital set-top box. Such Freeview boxes now cost as little as £20, which is certainly more appealing than forking out hundreds for a digital-friendly flatscreen. There’s also the added bonus of receiving over 40 free channels compared to analogue.

Alternatively, viewers can opt for a one-off installation of freesat for access to some 120 channels, or, if they desire the ability to pause, rewind and record live TV, a Freeview+ box. Beyond these options, subscription packages offered by the likes of Sky, BT or Virgin Media can give access to hundreds of channels, and your installation will be taken care of by your network.

Help for the elderly and disabled

Elderly or disabled residents, who may find the digital switchover difficult, can take advantage of the government’s digital switchover help scheme. This BBC-run Scheme will provide viewers with the information required to switch from analogue to digital, and also offers equipment and installation at a heavily-subsidised cost for certain eligible residents.

London and other areas switch over soon

London isn’t the only area gearing up for the digital switchover; most analogue signals in West Sussex will switch to digital on 29 February, while Tyne Tees and Northern Ireland will go digital in September and October respectively.

If you have more general queries about digital switchover dates, the Digital UK website offers further help and information.

No longer are terms like ‘digital TV’, ‘Freeview’ and ‘digital switchover’ shrouded in a cloud of mystery. But if you’re still watching an analogue television, the time to embrace digital is now.

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