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What is Switchover?
Digital Switchover (also known as "analogue switch-off") is the process of replacing analogue television broadcasts with digital TV. This means you won't be able to watch the five terrestrial channels (BBC One, BBC Two, ITV, Channel 4 or S4C, and Five) through an aerial unless you've got a set-top box or a digital television set. For logistical reasons, they can't make the switch all in one go, so the Switchover process will take place on a regional basis round the country. It is scheduled to be completed in 2012.

When is it happening?
The map below shows when each region of the UK will start to have its analogue television signal switched off and replaced with an all-digital service. For a complete list of transmitters and their switchover dates, click here.

SWITCHED TO DIGITAL: Whitehaven & Selkirk
Switchover was completed in Whitehaven and Copeland on November 14, 2007. The Selkirk transmitter and relays completed the switch on November 20, 2008.

NEXT TO SWITCH: Westcountry region
Beacon Hill starts 8 April 2009; Stockland Hill starts 6 May 2009. Switchover at these two transmitters will be completed within two weeks.

Border region and the Isle of Man: Caldbeck and Douglas will switch in June 2009. Caldbeck (24th) will carry both English and Scottish regional television for the first time. The Manx authorities are still to decide which ITV region will be broadcast from Douglas (18th) on the island.

Westcountry region: Huntsure Cross starts 1 July 2009; Redruth starts 8 July 2009; Caradon Hill starts 12 August 2009. Switchover will be complete at these transmitters within four weeks.

Wales: Preseli switches in August 2009; Carmel in September 2009; Llandonna in November 2009; Moel-Y-Parc, Blaenplwyf and Long Mountain in February 2010; and Wenvoe in March 2010.

Granada region: Winter Hill and all relays will start to switch in November 2009.

Other regions: Dates for all other regions are shown on the map. The Channel Islands are not part of the UK switchover plan, but will switch in 2013. Dates and information subject to change. Dates for some local relay stations may differ.

Image: map of the UK showing switchover dates
region borders approximate

What do I have to do?
To continue watching television after Switchover, you'll need some form of digital television. There are several options available, although not all services are available in all areas. Freeview gives you access to over 30 free channels through your aerial. You can convert your existing television with a set top box, or buy a digital television set (an IDTV). Freesat gives you access to over a hunded free channels thorugh a satellite dish; again, a set-top box or integrated Freesat television set will be needed. Alternatively, there are a number of subscription services to choose from, such as Sky (satellite), Virgin Media (cable) or Tiscali TV (via broadband).

What about my VCR?
Switchover will affect each and every piece of audio/video equipment you own that receives analogue television signals. In other words, everything that contains an analogue tuner. They won't stop working, but you may have to convert them individually to receive digital.

It's important to draw a distinction between a tuner and a set's ability to function. If your television only has an analogue tuner (the component which turns the signals from your aerial into pictures for your screen), then it will no longer be able to display analogue television pictures after analogue switch-off. But this does not mean it is useless: attach a Freeview box (which contains a digital tuner), and your TV will remain just as useful. It isn't just your television set which contains a tuner, however: if your VCR (Video Cassette Recorders) or DVD recorder could record from the analogue signals, this too will need to be replaced or converted. Note however that if converting (by plugging in a Freeview box), each and every piece of equipment will need its own box attached. As your existing equipment comes to the end of its working life, you can of course replace it with equipment already converted to digital television: a set-top box, digital recorder, a PVR or an IDTV.

How will the switchover be carried out?
The Switchover process will be rolled-out across the country based on the ITV region you receive at home (eg: Central, Granada, Tyne Tees...). You'll receive lots of information through the post, on television, in the local press and on local radio in the months and weeks before the switch. On the first day of Switchover, transmissions of BBC Two will cease, and be replaced by ITV. This means you'll find ITV on channel 2 of your TV set, rather than channel 3.

The space freed-up by the removal of BBC Two will be used to broadcast a set of digital channels, known as a multiplex. This will contain digital versions of BBC One, BBC Two. BBC Three, CBBC, BBC News 24 and Five. This arrangement will continue for between two and four weeks, after which time all remaining analogue channels will be switched off and replaced with digital multiplexes. At this point, known as analogue switch-off, you will no longer be able to receive analogue channels, only digital television.

In Wales, S4C (the combined English and Welsh service) will cease, and be replaced by S4C Digital, an entirely Welsh-language service (currently broadcasting on Freeview, satellite and cable). It is as yet undecided as to how local channels such as Manchester's Channel M will continue to be available after Switchover.

Why is analogue being switched off?
To generate funds for the Government. Because there's only a limited number of frequencies available to broadcast television stations on, they're much sought-after and therefore very expensive. Digital television makes more effective use of these frequencies, because you can broadcast more than one channel on each. Once all the analogue signals are switched off, the Government can sell the precious frequencies off to the highest bidders, but in most regions the analogue transmissions need to be switched off before the digital broadcasts can begin.


For more information...
Have a look at our Digital Q&A section, or visit the Digital Spy forums.



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