Smart Consumer: How to make the Saorview switch
It used to be that we had either an aerial or a subscription service to get our TV service. The choice was between having fewer or more channels, and spending nothing or spending something.
Now, with fewer than 100 days before the digital TV switchover, it's worth taking the time to review how you receive your TV and what channels you want. There are a wealth of options out there -- and chancers trying to get it on the act too.
If you currently use an aerial to get the Irish channels for free, you'll have to buy a Saorview-approved set-top box to receive the new digital signal. That will cost you around €50 for the cheapest version. After that, you'll receive the Irish channels, including some new ones, free as before.
But what if you want to upgrade?
The majority of Irish homes pay a monthly subscription service to UPC or Sky, with the basic package costing approximately €27. That's simple enough too. You get a load of channels and subscribers don't need to do anything at all to facilitate the digital switchover. But bear in mind that receiving your TV this way means a recurring cost for you -- at least €324 a year.
So, another option is to fork out a one-off fee for a set-top box that combines both Saorview (Irish channels) and Freeview (for UK channels and international satellite channels). These are called combi-boxes and there are two that are currently Saorview-approved (Triax and Walker brands). They cost between €150 and €180 and they also facilitate recording.
If you're in the market for a new telly, you're probably researching iDTVs. They are sets that include the Saorview function, so you won't have to buy a set-top box. There are 20 approved sets listed on the Saorview website. You can also buy TVs that include a satellite receiver for the UK and other channels.
But be careful. All this digital switchover buzz means that some unscrupulous traders are cashing on some people's confusion. Make sure you're in the know:
• There is no such thing as a digital aerial. Your existing aerial should be fine.
• Don't pay someone a hefty installation fee to install your Saorview set-top box. All you need to do is make sure the aerial is plugged into the TV and you can tune the set-top box from the remote control.
• There is no such thing as a Saorview-approved installer, but Saorview recognises three professional member bodies: Irish Satellite and Aerial Association, National Guild of Master Craftsmen and the Confederation of Aerial Industries.
• Whatever you're buying, research prices carefully and look at the list of registered retailers at www.saorview.ie