Monday, 14 December 2009

Digital Mayhem

Terrestrial television in the Channel Islands is provided by the Fremont Point transmitter in Jersey and seven 'relay' masts in Jersey, Guernsey and Alderney. All of these transmitters will switch from analogue to digital TV in a two-stage process starting in November 2010. The exact dates will be announced nearer the time. At the start of switchover, BBC Two will cease broadcasting in analogue and the first group of Freeview digital channels will become available. Around two weeks later, the remaining analogue channels will be permanently switched off and replaced by additional digital services

I was speaking to a relative in the UK, and he said the shortest period of overlap between analogue TV and digital TV is around three months, with six months being more common. This allows time for people to get set top boxes to receive digital transmissions, and test if they need those or freesat. In Jersey this time for testing will be a bare two weeks, and I would be most surprised if chaos did not ensue. Two causes of chaos:

1) People who have bought digital boxes and find that they will not actually work in their locality, which they can't do until the changeover takes place, and then have two weeks to get the alternative freesat in position, as well as being left with what, for them, is essentially junk.

2) People who do not want to risk that, and wait until the signal is broadcasting, then cause a rush on all local stores, which will probably sell out, and if they get someone to test the reception of the signal first, cause overload on demand on TV installer services.

My relative thought the Jersey change in such a short period was complete madness, and no district in the UK would put up with it. I'm inclined to agree with him. I suspect it is something to do with the limited number of transmitters, but I wish they would be more up front with the public, who can of course check on the overlaps in the UK and make their own comparisons.

In fact, Jersey because of its closeness to France, is not getting a complete freeview package, which is in fact sneaked into the FAQ:

After switchover, virtually all Channel Islands households will receive approximately 20 of the most watched Freeview channels and text services. These will include the public service channels BBC One, BBC Two, ITV1, C4 and Five, plus associated digital channels such as ITV2, E4 and BBC Three.

Ryan Morrison, of BBC Radio Jersey, answering a question, made this much clearer - why didn't he write the FAQ!

Jerry - without getting too technical it's all about available frequencies and because of our close proximity to France - we don't have enough in Jersey to have a full Freeview service available. Jersey isn't unique in this though as a number of areas of mainland UK will also only have a public service package available. However, what you will get in Jersey is a full public service - service. You should get all the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Five channels as well as radio stations and digital text. If you have a satellite dish you will also be able to receive a lot more channels (most of what's available on Freeview and then some) through Freesat without a subscription.

It also seems apparent that digital radio will not be available. As Ryan (who certainly knows his stuff and is very informative) notes:

@First Mike - As far as I'm aware there are no current plans to move to digital radio in the Channel Islands.
Chris - the simple answer is no as radio probably isn't going all digital for a while yet so your FM or AM radio will still work fine.

This makes me wonder why the breakfast show this morning, at around 7.20 am, had a advertisement on it for the wonders of picking up the BBC on Digital Radio, suggesting a Digital Radio was an ideal Christmas present! Someone goofed there, I think!


Ryan Morrison said...

Tony - I asked that very question (about the DAB trailer) myself and as it includes information on getting the same content through digital television or online it was felt ok to run.

TonyTheProf said...

Thanks Ryan. The reason I picked up on was that it said "Don't leave shopping until Christmas Eve and buy something cheap in the early sales for your wife - buy her a digital radio now"

If it hadn't got that bit, I wouldn't have posted on it!

Glad you're there to keep a watchful eye.

Ryan Morrison said...

I've looked into this and it was a national requirement but there should now be a statement read out that DAB is not available in the island after they're played with a local version soon without the mention of DAB.