Wednesday 21 March 2018

TV viewers bombarded about making switchover to digital

Aideen Sheehan Consumer Correspondent

TELEVISION viewers who have still not made the switch to digital TV are being bombarded with messages warning them their screens will go blank next Wednesday.

With just seven days to go to the digital switchover, analogue TV customers are receiving around three messages an hour on their TV screens warning them they will have to make the switch or lose their broadcasts.

Around 100,000 people are still estimated to be reliant on an analogue TV signal which will be switched off on October 24, when RTE switches to purely digital broadcasts.

A spokesperson for the Department of Communications said that while captions warning analogue customers of the need to switch had been appearing since June the frequency had now been bumped up.

RTE said the message was now going out six times a day in the final week before the switchover.

The warning currently reads:"In seven days time the analogue TV service, which you are watching now, will be switched off. To continue receiving Irish channels for free, make the switch to SAORVIEW"

There had been a huge surge in people switching to RTE's Saorview digital service in the last month, with 50,000 doing so in the last fortnight of September alone, the communications spokesman said.

Their feedback from digital experts around the country indicated that retailers and installers of Saorview equipment were being run off their feet.

The queries at local meetings had also become much more detailed about the specifics of which type of box to opt for rather than basic queries about what the switchover was, indicating strong awareness of the switch, he said.

Irish Rural Link said that the "pressure is on" to reach the remaining households who still had an analogue service.

"Our own data shows it is often older people in remote areas living alone or in couples, time and with no younger people around to help who were most at risk of being left behind," he said.

However, they had targeted these groups using local volunteers from local groups like Macra and the IFA and GAA to reach them and believed very few would be left behind next week.

However there was still a significant number of people who simply weren't prepared to make the switch in advance.

"I've been surprised to hear of a lot of people who've bought the equipment but it's just sitting in the house, because they're not going to install it till they absolutely have to," he said.

To receive a digital signal, viewers who have been receiving their TV broadcasts via aerial need to get either a Saorview approved settop box or a Saorview-approved TV.

Some people may need to also get their aerial adjusted if their existing signal is weak, particularly if they can’t currently receive TV3.

Customers of UPC and Sky don’t need to do anything.

Prices for set top boxes ranging from €40 to €80 in leading electrical outlets countrywide.

Digital switchover packages including installation of an aerial and Saorview box are available from €219, and viewers then have no ongoing monthly costs as the Irish stations are received free of charge.

For those who also want to avail of free British digital stations as well, a package including an aerial, satellite and Saorview/Freesat receiver boxes are available from around €329, again with no ongoing subscription costs.

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