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Analogue Switch-off - Good or Bad?

The UK Government announced that by the end of 2012, the analogue TV service would be switched off. The analogue TV service had been operating in the UK since the 1930s, and has been turned off to make way for digital TV services. Here, you'll find information about the process, plus your thoughts.

Digital Switchover almost complete!

The digital switchover completes in the UK in October 2012. This page was written whilst the switchover was taking place, and has been left here for those looking for information on the digital switchover.


When did the switchover happen?

Transmitters sending out the analogue signal started switching off from October 2007. This happened in UK regions, with Border being the first to switch off back in 2008/9, and Northern Ireland switching in October 2012. Here's the UK timetable:

Granada, West Country and Wales
West, Grampian and Scottish
Central, Anglia and Yorkshire
London, Meridian, Tyne Tees and Ulster


Why did the switchover happen?

Digital TV offers a greater range of channels. With Freeview (also sent over a TV aerial), you get around 40 TV channels - versus the five existing analogue TV channels.

These new channels use less space, and the space left after the switch-off can be used by the Government for other purposes, with the freed part of the spectrum being used for new 4G mobile phone services.


Consumers Going Digital

To go digital - all of your TV sets need to either contain a digital receiver, or need to be connected to a digital set-top box. Video and DVD recorders also need to be able to cope with digital TV. The cheapest solution is to buy a low-price Freeview set-top-box. Provided you're able to get a digital signal, this offers over 40 channels of digital TV, via the TV aerial. You can also get subscription-free TV over satellite.

On this site, we have pages dedicated to the Digital TV options, and we answer your common digital switch questions..


How clear is the Government's message?

The Government is keen to get everyone to switch, and together with the broadcasters, are pushing the digital message.

Looking at some of the mails we've answered in recent months, there's still much confusion about the analogue switch-over. Here's just a small sample:

  • "We live in a valley town that can't receive the digital signal using conventional aerials. Does this mean that when the switch over date approaches, all households in the town (including those on low incomes already) will have to pay for sky dishes and equipment?"

  • "We have got digital in the living room but we have got 4 portable televisions. Do we have to have a box for every telly?"

  • "We have Freeview on one of our T.Vs, and it's impossible to watch on most of the channels the picture breaks up. At the moment it is NOT a better service as every advert keeps telling us"

  • "I cannot receive a digital signal due to the trees which are around my bungalow, what happens when we all have to have go digital, can I make the local council lower these trees as they are only beech?"

  • "If I don't 'go digital' when the switchover happens, thereby being unable to receive TV signals, will I still need a TV Licence to watch videos and DVDs?"

  • "Will I need a high definition TV after the analogue turn off in 2111 to receive a TV signal for just the five main channels ... I am getting conflicting advice on what i have to do from the major retailers as I feel that they are trying to sell me stuff that i do not need."

  • "We have a Freeview box which receives its information from the rooftop aerial. My husband says that when the analogue signal is turned off, the aerial won't get the digital signal and we'll need a dish or cable, is this correct?"

Lots of confusion - and we're trying to help.

If you're looking for more on the Digital Switch, see our Go Digital page, or listen to Show 07 of our podcast for more.


Switch-off. Good or Bad?

Let's look at the good and bad points. First the positives:

  • A wider choice of channels. Freeview offers over 40 TV channels - including BBC Three, ITV 2, E4, Film 4, News 24, Dave, Quest, Pick TV and 5 USA
  • Digital TV offers features such as interactive "red button" content, and is less susceptible to interference
  • At the moment, digital services deliberately have their power reduced, so's not to interfere with analogue pictures. When analogue is dead, digital power will increase, as will digital TV coverage.

Now the negatives:

  • Every TV set has to either be "Digital TV Ready", or connected to a Freeview, Sky Digital or cable TV set-top box. For houses with multiple TV sets, this can be expensive.
  • Video and DVD equipment may need to be replaced too - Remember that to watch one digital channel while recording another digital TV channel, will require two digital receivers.
  • Some homes will need an aerial upgrade - which can be costly
  • Environmental impact - Set-top boxes left on standby eat power, increasing home electricity bills. Also, old TVs will be scrapped and landfilled


What about FM and AM Radio?

The assumption is that once the Government has got TV to "Go Digital", attentions will be turned to FM and AM radio, and making the UK switch over to digital radio, in the form of D.A.B.

According to a report on BBC News, Culture Secretary Tessa Jowel has confirmed that a decision about any proposed analogue radio switchoff will be made by the end of 2007. Switching off analogue FM and AM radios would render around 100 million radio sets obsolete, and mean the need to replace car radios, clock radios, kitchen radios, hi-fi tuners and handheld portable radio receivers in Britain.

For more on the FM Radio switchover, go to


Our take?

FrequencyCast is an online radio show that covers TV and Technology in the UK. Are we pro or anti the digital switch? It depends on the question you ask:

  • We're actually in favour of UK TV going digital. There's a greater channel choice, picture quality is generally better, and services like electronic programme guides, digital recorders and high definition are great... bring it on!

  • However, what we're less keen on, is the imposed switch off of the analogue TV signal. We're not anti-digital TV, but we can see why many are not in favour of analogue vanishing from 2008. Are we ready? Can folk on low income cope with costs of replacing equipment and aerials?

  • As for radio, well, we're certainly against any switch off for FM and AM radio!


Can it be stopped?

The UK Government are fully committed to the switchoff. Although emails to us show some people aren't happy... we've not heard of anyone campaigning to stop the analogue switchoff.

If you know of any anti digital TV campaigns, anyone protesting about the analogue shutdown of TV and radio, or any "say no to the switchoff" sites or petitions, please let us know, and we'll list them here.

Perhaps add your comments to our blog entry?


Digital TV Links


If you're interested in finding out what's new in the digital TV world, consider joining our mailing list, or subscribing to our regular radio show.

Want more info? Listen to Show 07 of our podcast for more on the digital switchover.

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Got a view that we can answer in our next podcast?
Call our podline on 020 8133 4567 or send us a message

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