Centre for Media Research

My Digital Switchover Hell!

A mild mannered academic is traumatised by the experience of digital switchover. Dr. Greg McLaughlin struggles with the rudiments of 21st century domestic entertainment… well, he would, wouldn’t he?


So how was it for you, darling? I mean phase one of the digital switch over on 10 October; or “DSO” as my more techie, Media Arts colleagues like to call it. Well it was hell for me. You see, after following the instructions for retuning – good job I kept that helpful OfCom leaflet for the hard of learning! – I discovered to my horror (!!!) that the ITV and Channel Four stations had gone missing. After an afternoon of infuriating, futile trouble-shooting, I finally had to give-in and call out “an expert”; a particularly grumpy TV aerial installer whose first words to me were, “I could really do without this you know! This will cost you £7 at least!!”  After much fuss, rustling around in the attic and several retunes he finally solved the problem. Total cost: £30. Inflation eh?

So as you might appreciate, I’m really looking forward to doing it all again on 24 October at which point the Republic of Ireland will have its own switch over in one fell swoop…and with better high definition technology. But, as they like to say on Horizon, there is a problem!!  Apparently, the UK works on a lower spec, MPEG2 digital decoding system while Ireland and (probably) the rest of the world works on a higher spec, MPEG4 system.  So that lovely new, fully HD TV I bought recently (£250) in anticipation of digital TV heaven will be fine for receiving Freeview UK but  perhaps not so fine if I want to receive RTE and TG4. So what will I need to do to keep tuned into RTE2’s footie coverage with Bill and the Boys? And let’s not forget Masterchef Ireland!! (What are you cooking for us today, Dymphna? Well, Dylan, I’m doing spuds and turnips on a bed of crushed bacon and mushrooms with a blueberry jus!)  I’m sure as a serious media studies academic I’m missing more important news and current affairs programming there but I can’t think what.

Anyway, to answer this pressing question I carried out exhaustive research both on the interweb and by driving around the Coleraine area asking questions of the TV aerial industry. It was brilliant! I felt like one of those scientists on Horizon, except without the drives in the desert. The full report is available at our School Office for the digitally competent and at a price but I can reveal here to the less digitally cognisant that to solve my problem, I will have to wait and see what happens on the 24 October! I might be lucky and receive an overspill signal from Saorview (Irish Freeview for those who speak only Ulster Scots) via the transmitter in Moville, County Donegal. But I live in Coleraine and I’ve never been lucky in Coleraine.  So if I don’t receive RTE on or after 24 October, I will have to do two things: buy a new, digital rooftop aerial (costing thousands of pounds) and a MPEG4 receiver box (about a million pounds) plus pay my grumpy TV aerial installer to put it altogether for me and make it work (about 5 million pounds at his rates). But at least then I will receive the full suite of Irish digital stations, TV and radio!

Have you got a digital switch over experience/disaster to tell me about? Go on, you know you’re worth it!


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