Digital TV Guides

What is digital TV?

What is digital TV?

Updated: Tuesday 9 March, 2010

By Becca Talbot -

Confused about the switchover and digital TV? We’ve got the answers to all your digital TV questions here, to help you make the switch from analogue to digital.

Over 89% of the UK already enjoys the benefits of digital TV (Ofcom, 2009), and with the switchover from analogue to digital due to be completed in 2012, you need to be clued up on the best way to upgrade your viewing experience.

The government’s digital TV rollout aims to ensure that everyone has access to digital services by 2012. But what is digital TV, and how do you get it?

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Video: What is digital TV?

What is digital television?

Digital television (DTV) is a more efficient way of delivering programmes, offering a high quality television service with improved picture clarity and sharper sound; so no more ghost images, distorted pictures or adjusting your aerial.

It also offers a host of extra benefits that you don’t get with traditional analogue TV, such as more channels and an interactive menu. You can also see what time programmes are on with the electronic programme guide (EPG), so there’s no need to by a TV listing magazine anymore. Read more details below…

The benefits of digital TV

Going digital offers a wider selection of channels, as well as digital-only radio stations and a range of interactive services ranging from email and text messages to health advice and shopping

Each service also offers an electronic programme guide (EPG), allowing you to see the current and next programmes, as well as a breakdown of the coming week’s TV schedule. You can even set reminders to make sure you don’t miss your favourite shows, or record them - though this will depend on your subscription and set-top box.

DTV also offers increased benefits for people with disabilities, especially those with hearing and vision impairments.

DTV is available in a number of different formats:

It can also be paid for in a variety of ways, including a one-off payment with a subscription-free service like Freeview, a pay-monthly subscription TV package such as Sky, or on-demand where you only pay for what you watch, like on BT Vision

Do I have to switch?

Eventually, yes everyone will have to take the plunge and switch to digital. The government’s digital switchover programme starts in 2008 with the ITV Border area, and is due to be completed in 2012 with Meridian, London, Tyne Tees and Ulster.

Residents in each area will get around two year’s notice before their analogue signal is switched off, to ensure that they’re well prepared.

How do I switch?

With digital television, sound and pictures are converted into a digital format and compressed. This technique enables several television channels to be carried in the space used by the current analogue signals.

Digital signals can be received by standard aerials, satellite dishes or via cable but have to be decoded and turned back into sound and pictures by using a separate set-top box, or a decoder built into your television.

This means that in order to continue watching TV after the analogue signals are switched off, you will have to have an integrated digital television or a set-top box to unscramble the signal.

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