The Digital Life, Houston We Have a Problem 056, 13/10/07

Digital Switchover Special


The Channels They Are A-Changing…

Help please! My digital TV keeps showing ‘No Service’ for ITV 3 and I now have to press the channel number buttons to get it. Channel 14 is now E4, not More 4. Several more stations have a different Freeview number and it is getting a bit frustrating. Why is it happening?

Margaret Hemsworth, by email


It might be a reception problem; one possibility is your digital receiver is hunting around for channels and may be picking up transmissions from an adjacent transmitter. Possibly the aerial has shifted in a high wind, or water has seeped into the cable connections. Otherwise engineering work or preparations for the switchover at the transmitter could have resulted in changes to the signal, or your receiver’s software could have been automatically updated.


If any of your neighbours have Freeview ask them if they’ve been experiencing problems. If not the problem is at your end so make sure that the aerial lead is securely plugged into the back of the receiver then check the signal. Most receivers have some sort of on-screen signal strength meter; it’s usually on the receiver’s setup menu under Installation. If you can’t find it refer to the instruction manual. If the levels are satisfactory run through the installation or ‘add channels’ procedure and that should retune the receiver. If the signal level or quality is low then a quick visit from an engineer should sort things out.



Substandard Subtitles?

I have a hearing impairment and would like to know if I will still be able to record program subtitles on digital channels, as I can at the moment from analogue TV stations, using my trusty Panasonic VCR?

Mike Hayley, by email


Yes and no… If you connect your VCR to a Freeview or Sky digibox you won’t be able to record the subtitle information separately as it is embedded in the TV signal. However, if you set the receiver to display subtitles then you can record the picture as-is, but this means the subtitles will be permanently ‘burned’ into the image and you won’t be able to turn them off, which may be problem if anyone else wants to watch the recording.


Since your VCR is getting on and probably due for replacement soon your best bet would be to upgrade to a Freeview or Sky Plus PVR (personal video recorder). These devices record TV programmes on a hard disc drive; they have twin tuners, so you can record one channel whilst watching another. Many models can also do clever tricks, like recording two channels at the same time, record and replay simultaneously or ‘pause’ live TV programmes but they all record subtitle data so you can switch the display on and off at will.




On the Margins

We get good Freeview reception from our loft aerial but we only get around half the channels on the portable TV in our bedroom, which is connected to a cheap Freeview receiver and has a built in aerial. Would changing to a more expensive digibox help?

Maureen Dickinson


Probably not and set-top aerials only work properly in areas of high signal strength, but you could try this simple trick. Temporarily connect your bedroom digibox to your loft aerial and set it to search for channels. This will store the full compliment of channels so when you reconnect it to the portable TV you may find that some or all of the missing channels are now available.




Over the Hill

It looks as though we are going to have problems receiving Freeview. We are on the wrong side of a hill and terrestrial reception is very poor, we only get four of the five channels and the picture is only just watchable. According to the local paper our switchover will be next year so we don’t have much time. We are planning to install a better aerial, our present one is quite rusty, but we don’t want something that would be an eyesore or upset the neighbours. What else would you recommend? Are aerial boosters any use or should we hold off buying a digital receiver in the hope that newer models will be more sensitive?

Jackie Coughlan, by email


Inevitably, because of the terrain or local conditions some areas are never going to get satisfactory digital reception but see what the Digital UK website (digital.co.uk) has to say. Enter your postcode and house number and it will tell you what the current and future situation is likely to be. If it says reception will be possible then your next stop should be your local aerial installer, who will be able to tell you what the options are. Aerial boosters and amplifiers tend not to be as effective for digital signals, and there’s unlikely to be any significant change in the design of Freeview receivers in the next year or so.


Even if you can’t get Freeview directly then you and your neighbours may be able to set up a shared aerial system. Cable TV may be an option or there is the Freesat satellite TV service (freesatfromsky.co.uk) and there are a number of services that can be delivered by broadband so one way or another you should still be able to continue to watch TV.





© R. Maybury 2007 0810


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