Digital UK apologises for 'Welsh problem'

Thursday, October 15 2009, 11:38 BST

By Andrew Laughlin,

Digital UK has issued an apology to Freeview households in north Devon who have been receiving Welsh television rather than their normal service after the retune.

Following the nationwide Freeview retune on September 30, around 300 customers in the south west region - which switched off the analogue signal earlier in the year - experienced the disruption to their service.

The so-called 'Welsh problem' arose because a mast in Wales transmits at a similar frequency to the Ilfracombe relay in north Devon, but at a much stronger signal, reports BBC News.

In response, Digital UK spokesman Bill Taylor said that only viewers receiving their TV signal from a relay rather than a main transmitter were affected by the problem. He added that specialist advice on the issue is now available on the Digital UK website or via the helpline.

Taylor stressed that the switchover in the south west region has proceeded without hitch for nearly one million TV viewers, but problems such as this are still "really frustrating".

"I'm not trying to hide behind the big number and I do understand people's anger. Sometimes the kit gets confused about where it's getting the signal from," he said.

"We will have specific advice for viewers on how to get round it and solutions on our website and on our helpline. Again it's frustrating, but the reality is that channels move around, they're not an absolute fixture."

However, Ilfracombe resident Terry Drew was less than impressed with the way the Freeview retune has been handled.

"It's just stupid. Before the last tune everything was perfect and afterwards everything went berserk," he remarked.

"I'm now getting the picture breaking up and a complete mixture of local and Welsh programmes and I don't speak Welsh."

According to Taylor, certain viewers in north Devon were picking up programmes from Wales even before the switchover went ahead in the region.

He explained that the Welsh transmitter's power has made frequency planning in the south west "fiendishly complicated", with north Devon being among the most challenging.

Despite this issue, Taylor accepted that more information and advice should have been extended to viewers who were most likely to be affected.

"We should have done more and I apologise unreservedly over what people are calling the 'Welsh problem'," he said.

"It's a rather unique problem and although there was nothing technically to be done, I should have discussed with people the fact this was a possibility."

Around 3,000 users have complained to Freeview about lost channels or equipment failure after the nationwide retune.