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The Digital Switchover

Over the next few years, the analogue TV signal will be switched off and replaced with a digital signal.

This will happen gradually, region by region. The process started in 2008 and will end in 2012.

To find out exactly when the switchover is taking place in your area please click here. Please note you will be directed to the website of Digital UK, one of our key partners in the switchover.

The Digital Switchover happens in two stages to give you the chance to check your equipment. At stage one, the analogue BBC Two signal is switched off and the digital service for that channel becomes available for the first time. This means that;

  • If you don’t have a digital tuner built into your TV, or a digital receiver such as a set top box, you’ll lose BBC Two.
  • If you have Freeview or another digital service via an aerial you’ll need to install or retune your equipment. (Click here for retune guides)
  • If you have Sky, Freesat or another digital service via satellite you will not be affected by the switchover.

At stage two, the rest of the analogue channels are switched off and the remaining digital channels become available in all areas for the first time. This means that;

  • If you haven’t switched to digital, you will lose your TV channels.
  • If you have Freeview or another digital service via an aerial you’ll need to retune your equipment again.
  • If you have Sky, Freesat or another digital service via satellite you will not be affected by the switchover.

This guide gives you everything you need to know about the different Digital TV options available. We’ll tell you about the different ways to receive and record Digital TV and even show you how to convert all the TVs in your house to digital.

What is Digital TV?

More channels

As well as the five main channels Digital TV offers lots of new free channels as well as others you can pay for. Different digital options offer different channel choices.

Better picture quality

Digital pictures aren’t affected by interference. If you can receive a digital signal, then picture quality will always be good.

True Widescreen

Many Digital TV programmes are broadcast in ‘true’ widescreen, which means the picture isn’t stretched. The result of this is great looking television, especially when you’re watching films.

Easier to find out what’s on

Instead of searching the TV listings in newspapers or magazines, digital viewers use an electronic programme guide, which works with a remote control. It lets you choose what to watch and record, just by clicking on programme from the guide displayed on your TV screen.

Interactive TV

Some programmes have an interactive element, often indicated by a red logo on the screen. For example, during Wimbledon fortnight, the BBC offers all digital viewers coverage from a choice of courts, so you can choose which match to watch.

Digital radio

You can listen to dozens of digital radio stations (also called DAB radio stations) through your TV.

Better sound quality

Digital broadcasting means purer sound, often of CD quality.

How do I get Digital TV?

Digital TV through an aerial: Freeview

Freeview is the easiest way to enjoy digital TV for free. With up to 50 digital TV channels to choose from on Freeview there’s something to keep everyone entertained. Not to mention 24 digital radio stations, better picture and sound quality, and all those interactive features when you press the red button on your remote.

It’s really easy to get, too. There’s no contract or subscription. Just check you are in coverage, make a one-off payment for a digital box, digital TV recorder or digital TV, plug it in and away you go!

Digital Satellite: Freesat

Freesat is the free digital TV service from the BBC and ITV. The service will entertain you with over 140 TV and radio channels, BBC iPlayer and treat you to free HD. There’s no subscription or monthly bills to pay. To get Freesat you will need a traditional analogue TV or a digital TV, freesat box and a satellite dish. (Click here to go to the freesat web page).

Digital Satellite: Sky+HD

Sky is a subscription–based service offering the widest choice of channels and flexibility. There are over 100 channels split into 6 entertainment packs, each bringing you great programming of that type. There’s also the HD pack bringing you 22 HD channels so that you can make the most out of your HD ready TV. What’s more is that you can also choose Sky Sports and Sky Movies, so you can catch up with the latest matches and movie titles. (click here to take you to the sky page).

To get Sky+HD you will need a digital TV with a Minidish and Sky+HD box and then you will need to sign up to Sky+HD for 12 months (£28 per month).(There is usually an offer on Sky+HD i.e Free Sky+HD box and Free installation when you sign up).

Can I still record from Digital TV?

As it stands at the moment, you can record one analogue channel on a video or DVD whilst you watch a different one on your TV. The reason you can do this is because you have two analogue tuners, one in your TV and one in your video recorder. This allows your TV to be tuned into one channel while your video can be tuned into another.

But what will happen at the switchover? People will rightly prepare beforehand by purchasing a Freeview digital box or TV with integrated digital tuner (IDTV). When the analogue signal stops you will happily be able to continue watching digital TV.

So what’s the problem? Well, you would only have a single digital tuner. This would mean that you could only watch and record the same channel. To avoid this scenario you will need two digital tuners. For example, if you own a Digital TV or Freeview digital box for your TV then you could purchase a DVD recorder, DVD Hard Drive Recorder or a Freeview+ Recorder, all of which will allow you to watch and record different channels at the same time.

The rise of Digital TV Recorders (DTRs) such as Freeview+, Freesat+ Sky+HD are acting to solve this recording problem by offering you the ability to watch and record different channels, all through one box. Simply watch one channel whilst recording another onto the built–in hard drive. You can do this because they have at least two built–in digital tuners. Ideally look for a digital recorder with a built–in digital tuner or connect one without to a separate digital set top box, Sky or IDTV.

Comet Recommends…

Still unsure? Here are some of our recommendations to get you fully equipped to record after the switchover.

I own an analogue TV and a VCR

If you’re happy not to have a ‘hard copy’ of your recording we recommend a Freeview+ Recorder or Sky+HD. If you do want ‘hard copy’ of your recordings, we would suggest a DVD or DVD Hard Drive Recorder (both will have a built–in digital tuner) and a Freeview digital box. Obviously if you upgrade your TV to a model with an integrated tuner then you won’t need the additional Freeview Box.

I own a TV, Digital Set Top box and DVD Recorder

The simplest solution would be to get another digital set top box that could be connected to your DVD recorder. Alternatively, you may consider upgrading your TV to one which comes with an integrated digital tuner.

I own a TV and Sky

Upgrade to Sky+HD and watch one channel and record another, or record two channels and playback a pre–recorded programme. Move your existing Sky box to another room to view different channels in different rooms (additional subscription required).

Here’s some more guides you might like:


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