18m UK homes have to re-tune boxes

Chris Forrester

UK households using the Freeview digital terrestrial system will have to manually re-tune their set-top boxes. This is a standard instruction for whenever new channels or services are launched. But the latest thinking calls for a wholesale re-jigging of the frequencies and EPGs ahead of the introduction of HD on Freeview this coming winter.

The addition of HDTV is good news, despite the fact that viewers who want Freeview HD will need to invest in new MPEG4-enabled set-top boxes, at a likely cost of some 200. A suitable HD-ready set is also needed to view HDTV.

But even viewers with no intention or interest in viewing HDTV will still have to go through the re-tuning process. It is estimated that up to 17.7 million boxes and TVs will be affected. The UKs public broadcasters are examining how on-screen tuition and help can best be achieved.

TV executives are concerned that the re-tuning exercise will be a major problem, especially for the elderly. One theory under consideration is to encourage multiple re-tuning exercises so that people get used to the task. And the task has to start this year. There are 5 major UK regions switching fully to digital between this coming December and June next year.