Smart Consumer: How you can turn on, tune in and decode Saorview
Does the date October 24, 2012, mean anything to you? It may be eight months away but you'd be wise to make a note, because it's when our analogue TV signal switches off and we enter the digital TV age.
I've seen ads for Saorview, what is it?
Saorview is the digital television service, owned and managed by RTÉ, which has been charged with implementing this switch from analogue TV to digital, as per EU rules. As the name suggests, it is a free-to-air television service.
If it's free, why do I have to pay for a set-top box?
Getting the Irish channels will still be free, as it is now. The signal will still come through your aerial but in order to decode the new digital signal you'll also need a set-top box, or a TV with an in-built decoder (an idTV).
So, I need a new TV?
No. But if you are getting a new one, then it makes sense to buy a Saorview-approved one that comes with an in-built decoder and then you won't need to buy a set-top box.
When you see a set-top box or TV with the Saorview-approved sticker, it means that it has been independently tested to ensure it will be 100pc compatible with the new digital system. There are 'non-approved' boxes, but you'd be advised to buy Saorview-approved and set-top boxes. Other set-top boxes and TVs may work, but if there are any changes to encoding or channels down the line, it may not continue to work.
Someone said I need a digital aerial, do I?
There is no such thing as a digital aerial! Your aerial should be absolutely fine. But if currently you don't receive TV3 through your aerial, it may be pointing in the wrong direction and if you don't receive TV3 or TG4, then you may have an old aerial and need a new UHF one pointed at the best transmission site.
But someone from Saorview said I needed a new aerial
I'm afraid that was a con artist because no one from Saorview or RTÉ has or will be calling to anyone's door. Go to your local retailer who can recommend an aerial installer.
I don't use an aerial, so what do I need to do?
About 37pc of TV households receive some TV through an aerial, but if you're not one of them you don't have to buy anything. If you subscribe to UPC or Sky you won't have to do a thing.
I use an aerial with a satellite and set-top box to get the UK channels
You'll still need that set-top box to encode the new signal from your aerial. However, you can get 'combi-boxes' that combine both services. These are currently being tested by Saorview, so there will be approved models available in a few weeks' time.
Is Saorview available now?
Yes, 97pc of the country is Saorview enabled at this stage, and by the switchover date, 98pc will be covered.
Hang on, what about the other 2pc?
Well, currently 2pc can't receive free Irish TV through an aerial due to where they live, with the signal being blocked by mountains, for example. But there will be Saorsat, a satellite service that will reach these households, and that means 100pc coverage by October 24.
So, is digital TV better?
The picture and sound quality is better. In addition, there will be more Irish channels such as RTÉ News Now and RTÉjr with daytime programming for children, plus, you'll be able to get the radio through your TV. In all there are eight TV channels and 10 (RTÉ) radio stations, in addition to Aertel digital and an interactive programme guide.