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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Digital Doctor: More questions answered

Many viewers are confused about the impending switchover from analogue TV to digital, due to take place between 2008 and 2012.

What will the changeover mean for licence fee payers? Will it mean buying a new television? And how much will it cost?

BBC News' resident Digital Doctor is on hand to deal with your queries, and returns to deal with a second batch of your questions.

Question: I bought a digital TV in 2003, which enables me to view digital channels without having a digital box. However, I cannot view digital channels (such as E4, ITV3 and ITV4) that have been introduced since I bought the TV. Is there anything I can do to receive them?
Martha, London

Digital Doctor: You will need to tell your TV to re-scan for new channels. Since 2003, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky have all added new services to Freeview, and the channel numbers changed last month. For instructions on re-scanning your TV, check your manual, or consult your manufacturer.

Question: Will the analogue switch-off affect my analogue radios?
Howard Gilbert, London

Digital Doctor: No. While switching-off analogue (FM and AM) radio remains a possibility, no date for it has yet been set.

Question: As someone who is not prepared to spend money buying a set-top box (I have only just got a television, and will be perfectly happy not to use it for live programmes), would I have to pay a licence fee for my television once the switchover has happened, if I am only going to be using it for watching videos/DVDs?
Jo, Bristol, UK

Digital Doctor: You will still need a licence if you use equipment to receive or record television transmissions, including a TV, video recorder, set-top box, or a computer with a TV card. Contact TV Licensing for details about individual cases.

Question: Will Sky retain the current monopoly with Channels 4 and 5 over satellite? You can buy receivers now, but they are not compatible with the Sky card which is needed to get these two basic, supposedly national channels. We cant get Five through the aerial here either. Freeview is also not available. Cable is not likely to be either. I dont live in the middle of nowhere - I'm 15 miles outside Manchester
Cheryl, Derbyshire

Digital Doctor: Sorry, this is a long reply which needs a bit of history to it. When the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Five joined the digital satellite service, all had a contract which meant Sky encoded their signals to stop them from "leaking" outside the UK, and also to ensure the right regional TV services went to the right place. This meant digital satellite viewers needed a decoder card to watch the main UK channels.

But the BBC pulled out of its deal with Sky in 2003, meaning all BBC services can now be watched without a card. ITV announced earlier this year it was pulling out of its own deal, and the two broadcasters are joining forces to offer a free satellite TV service, Freesat, along the lines of Freeview.

This leaves Channel 4 and Five still in the Sky deal. Channel 4 found itself in trouble with some satellite viewers when they found they needed a Sky Digital subscription to watch More4 when it launched last month. Freeview viewers can watch E4 and More4 for nothing, while satellite viewers have to sign up to Sky Digital.

Whether this situation continues is down to whether Channel 4 continues with its contract with Sky. Channel 4 recently joined the consortium which owns Freeview, and clearly the BBC and ITV would like it to join their Freesat service. It is not known what Channel 4's plans are, though.

Five's plans are less clear, although both Channel 4 and Five are already on the "Freesat from Sky" free satellite service - even if E4 and More4 are not.



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