Digital Switch

You’ve already been warned about the digital TV switchover and how it will affect us all. The amount of publicity has grown along with sometimes contrasting advice as to what to do. We have also witnessed increasingly desperate appearances on and off screen of the annoying tin can robot Digit Al as it alerts us to the impending doom of switchover (see picture). It has even been seen in metal fleshed person stumbling down various high streets. But now, thank goodness, it will vanish from our screens (probably along with any TV pictures) as the whole switchover thing is all happening in this merry month of May – May 6th and May 20th to be precise. After May 20th, there will no doubt be a puff of virtual smoke and we will possibly cease to exist. That’s unless you live in parts of Devon because you already disappeared last April and so you won’t be reading this. Isn’t that exciting! And also slightly confusing, so here are some lateral answers to your many questions:

What is Stockland Hill?

It’s a very tall (over 850 feet high) transmitter mast near Honiton – one of the tallest man-made structures in the UK (actually, this is true!). It has pretty red lights running up to the top which can be seen for miles and miles at night. Most TVs in the Marshwood Vale area are tuned to it whether they realise it or not, which is why it’s a Very Important Thing when it stops broadcasting analogue signals in May. If you watch TV through a satellite or broadband connection, Stockland Hill is completely irrelevant to you. And if you never watch any TV, then this entire article is a waste of time and you should immediately move forward to page 34 and read Wendy Lee’s article about coriander which you will find much more useful.

Which way should my aerial be pointing?

Basically, like this. No, not that way, this way… and slightly to the right. Up a bit… nudge it to the left… OK, yes, that’s it. This may be the same way direction as it was pointing beforehand. Or not. If in doubt, look at other TV aerials in your street. Yours should be pointing in roughly the same direction.

Do I need a new aerial?

Yes, if your answer to the previous question was ‘downwards’. Otherwise it’s probably not necessary. However, rather like quoted solutions to the global financial crisis, nobody really knows. Sorry to be difficult but it all depends on where you live, how high you are above sea level and whether it’s a Friday or it’s raining. The only reliable way to tell may be to wait till after May 20th and see if you’ve got anything left on the screen.

How do I know if I’ve been digitally switched?

Look in the mirror. If you can see two of yourself, then you’re either already digitally enhanced or you’ve been knocking back too much cooking sherry. Another way to tell is by reading the lines of text in this magazine. If they all look OK on the printed page, then great – you have been successfully switched. But if all you get is a hissing noise and the letters zxcvbnm qwerty asdfghjk, then beware. You may also need to visit an optician.

Will I need to buy a new TV?

This all depends on how old your current TV is and to whom you’re talking. Basically, it’s not necessary – all you need is a set top converter box. But if your TV is more than 20 years old and smells of burning plastic when you turn it on, the answer is probably ‘yes’. If you’re asking a TV or electronics retailer, then the answer will definitely be a ‘yes’.

How many TV channels will I be able to receive?

There are more answers to this question than there are available TV channels. If you’re watching Freeview, then it’s somewhere between 18 and 80 channels depending upon where you live and the number of crows flying between you and your local transmitter. Sky, Virgin and satellite viewers can get well over 100 or even 200 channels which is about ten times more than human beings can safely watch without having their brains removed. The real question is not how many channels you can receive, but how many channels you might want to watch. In addition to some good extra stuff like Film 4, ITV 2 and 3 and more BBC channels than you ever thought possible, you’ll also pick up lots of channels for shopping, dating, gambling, games and dodgy telephone phone-ins. If this onrush of dubious digital choice is too much to digest, try sticking your head in a pillow or throwing your TV off the pier at West Bay.

Will I continue to be able to watch Big Brother?

Hopefully not, though this is strictly a personal opinion and has nothing to do with the switchover.