Thursday, April 24, 2008

Big bang switchover? Not quite.

Digital UK tick logo

When I saw the headline and first sentence snippet of the article below I nearly gasped in amazement.

Whitehaven repeat may be ruled out

The body responsible for digital switchover is considering turning off the analogue signal for all the UK's terrestrial channels in one go instead of ...

My mind raced away thinking about a big bang switchover. Wait three years while nimble aerial riggers climbing up and down all the masts across the UK (over 1,000) to install and test new digital transmitters to make the necessary changes. (The time and limited skill base is probably part of what means that the digital switchover process takes so long and has to be phased.)

Amazing. Just one set of switchover adverts. One big consumer push. One big bargain sale in Currys to get every household kitted out with a Freeview box. One last minute frenzy for household aerial fitters across the land.

And then someone in Digital UK HQ would hit the big red button and switch off all the analogue transmitters, and push the green button to turn on (or boost the power) of the digital ones. A ceremony that could be televised on all the UK channels - even though some might loose the picture half way through! Like the turning of the millennium all over again.

By then I’d clicked through to read the full article. And my imagination stopped dead in its tracks. The second part of that first sentence went on to tell a very different story.

... continuing with the existing two-stage process.

Digital UK said there had been mixed feelings in Whitehaven, the Cumbrian town where the five-year switchover project began in October, about the decision to switch off BBC2's analogue signal four weeks ahead of the other terrestrial channels.

They switched BBC Two over first. Which meant that people who hadn’t paid attention to all the switchover advice, leaflet drops and local coverage only lost one out of the five channels, and had time to respond before the other four were lost.

The switchover body said the process had created confusion for some people and had forced viewers to "toggle" between analogue and digital services to access all channels during the transition period.

Some 49% of respondents to a survey in the Whitehaven area said they would have preferred a single switchoff date. Just 23% favoured the way it had happened, with another 28% neutral.

... But Digital UK urged caution, pointing out that for older or vulnerable consumers the "grace period" offered by the two-stage process had been beneficial.

So Digital UK are going to take a cautious approach and shrink the BBC Two only phase down to two weeks for the Selkirk transmitter switchover in the Scottish Border region in November.
And they’ll also consider whether a single all-in-one switch over for later regions is possible (or advisable). No big bang after all.

In case you're wondering - along with London, Northern Ireland's down for switchover in 2012.

1 comment:

Timothy Belmont said...

Mmmm...interesting. To head off at a tangent (which I'm apparently good at!), our widescreen telly is eight years old; I cannot decide whether to buy a 42" plasma soon (thirsty on electricity), or an LCD 37". I'm a confirmed Panasonic devotee :-)