170,000 homes using TV aerials unaware signal to end in 2012
A LARGE proportion of people who rely on an aerial for their television channels are unaware the old analogue TV signal will be switched off by the end of next year.
New research from the Department of Communications indicates almost 170,000 households who are reliant on an RTE mast do not know of the change in the broadcasting system.
RTE's digital free-to-air TV service Saorview will replace the current system, in place since 1962, by the end of 2012.
Households which receive some TV service through an aerial will have to buy a Saorview-approved set-top box to get the new service.
The Department of Communications commissioned a survey of 1,100 households at the end of November last year to analyse the viewing habits of households around the country.
The study shows just one- third of homes which rely on an aerial are aware of the switchover. Most homes which rely on aerials are based in rural areas.
At present, 16pc of households, or 254,000 homes, rely solely on the mast for their TV.
Of these, about 158,000 have access to Irish TV channels only through the aerial, while another 96,000 have access to both Irish and British channels through the same system.
Subscribers to Sky or UPC will not have to do anything when the changeover comes into effect.
Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte said his priority is that everyone who needs information on the switchover is provided with it. "I will be discussing with my Government colleagues practical measures to assist in the switchover," he said.
"Digital television will improve the television experience, with more channels, high-definition pictures, higher-quality sound, on-screen menus and digital teletext," he added.
The European Union has directed that all European countries should switch off their analogue TV service by the end of next year.
The set-top box costs will amount to some €100 but as more competition enters the market, the price is likely to come down.
A government subvention scheme is also expected to come into place but details are yet to be announced.