TIME TO SWITCH
THIS WEEK sees a fundamental and permanent change in Irish television viewing, as the old analogue signal is switched off forever and the new Saorview service becomes mandatory across the country.
The change is due to an EU directive that ordered all member States to switch over to digital broadcasting. Many have already made the switch, as Saorview became available in some parts of the country as far back as October 2010 and was rolled out nationwide in Spring of last year, but equally, many others have only made the change in recent weeks or are still even waiting for technicians to come install the necessary new aerials and other equipment.
The main benefits of the digital Saorview service include clearer picture and sound quality, on-screen programme information guides, and a wider choice of TV and radio channels (RTE alone has three extra channels on Saorview: RTE News Now, RTE Jr, and RTE One+1). In addition, the bandwidth space which up to now has been used for analogue TV will become available for other telecommunications services such as 4G mobile broadband services, which it is hoped will help the economy and lead to the creation of jobs.
Varying levels of action by householders are needed to receive Saorview, depending on their own particular circumstances. For instance, somebody with an older TV set will need a Saorview set-top decoder box, with two types available: one that receives only the Irish digital TV and radio channels, and one that also receives the main British and a number of free-to-air satellite channels. If you have a newer TV set, marked 'Saorview Ready' or 'Saorview Approved', it means your set already has a digital decoder and therefore the set-top box in unnecessary. However, you will still need an appropriate UHF aerial, which in most cases will need to be outdoors, although in some limited cases an indoor ' rabbit ear' or similar type aerial might suffice. In a limited number of cases - for households in roughly two per cent of the country, geographically speaking - mountains and other factors mean that Saorview will not be available, and householders are being directed towards the satellitebased and more costly Saorsat service instead.
Another option is to sign up to subscription services such as SKY or UPC. Existing customers of these services will not have to take any action at all following this week's switchover.