THERE is now less than 24 hours to go before the old television signal is completely switched off.
As of tomorrow all transmissions of analogue TV channels will cease, leaving only the digital channels behind.
This means that any viewers who still do not have a set-top box or a new television with digital hardware built into it have just hours to get one, otherwise they will be left facing a blank screen.
In addition, all viewers (excluding those with satellite or cable TV) will have to retune their sets tomorrow, even if viewers have already got their digital connection set up, because the switchover will scramble the existing channels.
The switch will happen in stages throughout the day, and it marks the final step to a conversion to all-digital television.
It has already taken place in the rest of the UK, and the first phase of the switch happened in Northern Ireland on October 10, when the BBC2 analogue signal was switched off.
Now this is the very final phase.
Denis Wolinski, head of Northern Ireland branch of Digital UK which is running the changes, said ultimately, everyone will be better off.
“It’s all coming to a head,” he said.
“Which is a good thing – it means everyone will soon be converted to digital TV and better off.
“They’ll get more channels, more choice, and better quality television.”
He added: “And we’re here to help – that’s the key message I would like to give anybody who is having any difficulties at all – go to our website, or ring our advice line.”
These contact details are provided in our panel opposite, “How to keep watching TV”.
As reported, there have been fears that some viewers who are housebound, elderly or suffering from debilitating illnesses may be left behind as a result of the switch.
One man in charge of giving them a helping hand is Nigel Tilson, the manager of the BBC-run Help Scheme to offer assistance to many viewers who qualify for their help.
He said: “We don’t know what Wednesday will bring, but most people are prepared and are quite relaxed about it all.
“Naturally, there are going to be a few who slip through the net.
“But in terms of our Help Scheme, we’re open until November 24.
“If anyone wakes up on Wednesday morning, has a blank screen and realises they’ve done nothing about it, give us a call.”
Not everyone qualifies for the Help Scheme but a basic breakdown can be found in the panel to the right, and more details are available by calling the numbers provided.
To mark the digital switchover, both UTV and the BBC will be broadcasting a variety show featuring clips from the best of the Province’s television over the last several decades.
Live entertainment show The Magic Box is jointly produced by UTV and BBC Northern Ireland, and will feature archive footage from each channel’s early broadcast days.
Host Eamonn Holmes will also be speaking to an invited audience, including a number of well-known personalities from both channels.
The show will go out simultaneously on BBC1 and UTV tonight at 10.35.