Blank TV screens forecast as 500,000 fail to upgrade
HALF a million households have yet to upgrade their television signal ahead of the digital switchover.
There are just 100 days remaining before the analog service is turned off at 10am on October 24.
Those who rely on an aerial for their television signal will face blank screens on that day and need to link up with a digital TV service to retain their signal.
Brian Geraghty, digital reception manager with RTE's digital service Soarview, said he didn't want people "panic buying".
It is understood that about 100,000 people who were relying on an aerial have bought the set-top boxes or upgraded their televisions to receive free Saorview digital broadcasts.
Others are availing of subscription TV services like UPC or Sky -- but there are still about 500,000 of Ireland's 1.8 million households who need to switch from the old aerial system.
Mr Geraghty said: "We don't want a last-minute thing with people queuing outside shops to get the boxes, or retailers selling out of set top boxes. We're trying to get people to make the switch now."
Mr Geraghty said the majority of the households that had yet to switch over were in rural Ireland. Saorview's concerns are based on statistical research in other countries where the analogue TV signal was switched off.
"Coming up to the switch-off proved to be a really busy time, but people who switch now can make a more informed purchase, and have enough time to get any maintenance work done on aerials," he added.
It is also hoped that RTE2 TV's high definition coverage of the Olympics will entice viewers to make an early switch to the boxes or TVs with built-in satellite receivers.
Most people who have an existing UHF aerial can make the switch simply by purchasing a Saorview approved box, with an average price of €70.
People who get their television through subscription services like Sky or UPC will be unaffected.
Mr Geraghty reminded viewers that if they did not look into switching now, then they would have no signal from October 24.
"It's a huge closedown with 180 transmitter sites across Ireland switching off at the same time."
Figures from Sky Ireland last night revealed that Dublin people were more likely to already be using a digital TV service, with the number at 67pc, while the rest of Leinster stands at 54pc. In Munster, 53pc of viewers have already made the switch to digital, as have 49pc in Connacht-Ulster.