Updated: Wednesday 25 February, 2009
By 2012 the UK will have switched to digital, and the last of the old analogue signals will have been switched off. If you haven’t bought the necessary hardware to unscramble the new digital signals, you won’t be able to watch TV any more. Here’s our essential guide to setting up your digital TV hardware.
This all depends on what kind of service you want, how much you want to pay and what you want to do with it.
If you want to go for the cheapest possible option then you can simply buy a set-top box, which start from as little as £20, and watch the Freeview channels. Alternatively, you could buy an integrated digital TV set, which is more expensive but an option if you’re already in need of a new TV.
You also need to bear in mind that your old VCR won’t work in the same way after the digital switchover and if you want to watch one channel while recording another, you’ll have to buy a digital TV recorder (DTR). DTRs are more expensive than standard set-top boxes but they do work as a digital TV receiver too, so you don’t need to buy both.
If you want more than Freeview, you could join Sky (www.sky.com), Virgin Media (www.virginmedia.com) or another provider. A subscription will cost more and commit you to a contract, but you’ll have access to more channels and your provider will also supply and install your hardware. Compare Digital TV subscriptions.
Setting up Freeview is very easy, but if you are worried and don’t want to do it yourself, then your retailer should be able to provide assistance installing your hardware. There will probably be a cost for this though.
You may be eligible for installation help from the Government’s Help Scheme (see useful links) if you’re over 75 or are registered disabled - you’ll be contacted nearer the time of the switchover if you are eligible.
However, if you’re not eligible for Government help and don’t want to pay out for installation, don’t despair - setting up your digital receiver is not difficult. Just follow these instructions:
If you don’t have a scart socket at the back of your TV you can still connect providing your set-top box has a “RF out” socket.
Bear in mind that this is not an ideal option and most DVD digital boxes and DTRs will need a scart connection.