Fifty years ago, TV was the new thing that would enhance our lives. Even up to this day, we still captivate ourselves to this evolving ‘culture’ which has had such an impact to us. Just imagine if one of the world’s greatest events would not have been shown in TV (imagine people across America not watching the twin towers fall-what impact would it have on other people? ). But these recent times, the advent of Digital Television is another step towards the progression of television itself. It opens a whole window of possibilities- more channels, more choices, better interactivity.
Even the television companies itself will be given a new challenge by introducing this new technology to its current and future customers. It is up to them however to find the gap in the market to gain full advantage of Digital TV. When there is progression, so will be regression. Digital TV will not just catch on and be the next best thing instantly. There will be some people who will oppose to the idea and the companies will try and fight over viewing rights of channels. A recent Ofcom report said more than 60% of UK households now receive digital TV.
With a digital switchover planned to take place from 2008-2012, should the government say yay or nay? Let us imagine ourselves when the digital switchover has taken place. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each? First off, let us discuss the advantages of digital TV. It has a great appeal to the majority of people. Even though the cost of gaining access to one is still expensive experts say that the price of present digital subscriptions and hardware will drop dramatically after a few years. However, the cheapest free view set-top-box presently is as low as i?? 25. 00.
Another advantage is that digital TV could allow the audience to pause record their programmes without the use of tapes. It is also said to be quicker and simpler process than the old VCR. In line with digital TV, the actual television set is changing. There are now ones that are called HDTV (high definition TV). This technology coupled with digital TV provides us with high quality video and sound that is dramatically noticeable. In more simple terms, pictures and sound will have more consistency and less interference. Digital TV has also embraced the convergence of interactivity.
Extra information and interactive features now accompany most programmes. Compared to analogue TV’s teletext, digital TV’s interactivity takes it to a new level. It is more user-friendly and makes the viewer more involved. There is even an electronic programme guide which gives you far more information about programmes content. This hands-on approach is what makes digital TV unique. Of course, these advantages over the audiences equate to the benefits that companies and the government get. At the moment, there are 3 main ways to go digital: Satellite (SKY, Canal +, RAI, etc. ), Cable (NTL and Telewest) and Freeview.
At the moment, Satellite access is ahead in terms of market share with 7. 1 million subscribers (Sky subscribers), followed by 3. 9 million homes supplied by freeview and 2. 5 million subscribers get their digital TV through cable. These statistics suggest that competition is fierce at the moment. It said up to 1. 5 million boxes had been sold in the lead-up to Christmas, with 190,000 sold in each of the two weeks before the holidays. There might be fierce competition, but this is deemed to be a healthy competition. There will be a time when existing sales are starting to ‘tail off’.
The introduction of the switch off will be a seizing opportunity for them to increase their sales. These opportunities are enhanced services-which adds value to a subscription (or in the case of freeviews, a sharp increase in set-top boxes and HDTVs-which is already happening). Recently, Sky has recently offered a new free satellite service called Sky FreeSat. It allows access to 140 non-subscription channels for a one-off fee. Even the likes of BBC and ITV are to launch a free-to-view satellite TV service to cater for viewers unable to receive Freeview digital coverage-and to rival the monopoly that Sky has.
Also, in line with the HDTV technology, the BBC aims to produce 100% HD programmes by 2010. The government will also have some advantages over the switch off. When all the analogue signals have been switched off, those signals could be sold to telephone, communications or aerospace companies to make use of the cleaned up space. The country’s image is also on the line. It essentially propels the country into the digital age in order to gain a more competitive advantage. Furthermore, there are more opportunities for a better efficiency of the operation of government services reducing costs and keeping down taxes.
I have used the word ‘majority’ because there are people who are not in full favour of digital TV. There are also drawbacks for the companies and the government. Digital is an “all or nothing” technology. The pictures are either crystal clear or absent. In heavy rain or snow an analogue signal might give a grainy but watchable picture. Digital signals are more robust and will tolerate a high level of interference but, when conditions become too bad, both the picture and the sound will vanish.
In addition, because all the work is done by an internal computer, it sometimes makes mistakes and the picture can disappear in a maze of coloured squares or simply “freeze” on the screen. However, this “trade off” between pictures which might always be grainy and crystal-clear pictures which occasionally disappear will be preferable to most people. Digital provides just one channel from the set top box at a time (the same as existing satellite TV receivers). You can’t watch one digital channel and record another unless you: 1. Have more than one set top box 2. Keep your existing analogue satellite receiver
3. Continue to use analogue terrestrial TV (as long as the transmissions last – about 5 – 10 years is anticipated) In a survey, when asked to identify the disadvantages of digital television, a third (32%) state that it is too expensive, 9% that you have to pay for a subscription, and 8% that there are too many channels and choice. Also, the 40% who do not have digital television yet will discover that the present cost of service is not attainable in their opinion. Of course, without the funding that the BBC get from the TV license lowered, they would obviously look to increase the cost threefold.
The increase in the number of channels isn’t without disadvantages. For viewers, the absence of original programming can lead to a feeling of ‘nothing’ being on across hundreds of channels. ‘Event’ programmes are also under threat; virtually gone are the days when 30 million people tuned into the same programme. For channel owners selling advertising time is increasingly difficult. Niche broadcasters may be advantageous in terms of reaching a specific target audience but many have official audience shares of 0%.
There was even a study made by Dr Jeremy Klein claiming that Millions of people are not using digital TV because they find it too confusing. He says that “Elderly and short-sighted people find it laborious and demanding changing channels”. It is said that two million people are affected by this problem. As a result, the elderly and people with low-income will be put off with this news. They feel that it will be better to stick with the old and what they are used to. Companies are also having trouble with the changes.