‘Quarter of homes’ not ready for digital switch

Robert Oliver, Clonavon Avenue, Portadown.
Robert Oliver, Clonavon Avenue, Portadown.

AN Armagh aerial installer estimates that up to 25 per cent of Northern Ireland households did not have a television set that was ready for the digital switchover that began yesterday.

In the early hours of Wednesday morning the old analogue BBC2 signal was turned off and the alternative digital version was boosted.

For those not yet ready to receive the new digital signal the first problem they noticed yesterday was that their BBC2 channel was no longer working. Unless such people take steps to remedy the situation they will lose all remaining channels on October 24 when the second and final phase of the switchover takes place.

Portadown aerial and satellite system supplier Robert Oliver is chairman of the Confederation of Aerial Industries, the largest representative body for manufacturers and installers of aerials across the UK.

He said: “People have been making the transition to digital equipment for the past six to eight years as they bought new televisions and aerials. At that time they should have been advised about the digital switchover as they changed their equipment. However in the past seven to 10 days the number of inquiries have picked up about just what people need to do.”

The phone at his Portadown shop was ringing persistently yesterday morning from people seeking advice on the switchover. He says satellite and cable television will not be affected by the changes. “As for anyone else, they either need a digital set-top box and an old-style television or a new television which is digitally enabled, he said.

“My advice is quite simple – if you are still getting BB2 since Wednesday this week, do nothing. But if you are missing channels or you have a broken picture, contact a reputable aerial installer.”

And he added: “I estimate that around 20 to 25 per cent of standard households across Northern Ireland do not have a television that is ready for switchover, based on the number of houses we go into with old style televisions and no set-top boxes.”

Nigel Tilson of the BBC help scheme met members of the public yesterday at advice clinics in Belfast City Hall, Downpatrick and Connswater Shopping Centre in Belfast.

“The main inquiries we had were about how to retune digital receivers with others inquiring about the help scheme itself,” he said. He estimates that only five per cent of households were not prepared for the switchover, based on market research.

l If you are over 75 or in receipt of certain benefits you can get free help to upgrade your system from the BBC help scheme on 0800 4085 900 or see www.helpscheme.co.uk

If you are not eligible for the BBC help scheme but still need advice, call Digital UK on 08456 505050 or see www.digitaluk.co.uk