Digital "switchover" in 2012

When television was invented it was broadcast using analogue transmitters and receivers. Recently, digital transmission and reception has become increasingly popular. It is easier and more versatile to transmit, and means that the public can also receive far more stations and services. Sub-titling and audio descriptions, for instance, are widely available on digital, for people who have sensory impairments.

The government has decided that all broadcasting will move to digital this year, and analogue will be turned off. In London, this will begin happening in April 2012.

Does this affect radio as well?

No. Radio will not change to digital transmission for a couple of years.

How does this affect me? What do I need to do?

If you only have an old analogue TV, it won't work after April unless you get a small digital box and lead to receive the new digital signal. The box just needs to be plugged into your television and aerial. This can cost as little as £20. There are lots of digital boxes available and start in price from about £20, and are available from many high-street or on-line electrical retailers such as Argos, PC World, and Comet.

You also need to have a digital supplier to send you the signal, though this need not cost any money - Freeview is completely free and is included with the boxes described above.

Do I need a new aerial?

No! You don't need a new aerial to receive digital television - you only need the little box.

Can I get Sky TV or other big-name premium suppliers when I go digital?

Yes, but they are considerably more expensive than the Freeview option described above and will require different (and potentially more costly equipment), a satellite dish or cable to deliver the signal, and tie you into a long-term contract. The independent Digital UK website can tell you a lot more about these options under their Costs and Options section.

I'm not technical - I won't know what to do - I can't afford it. 

Don't worry - many people are not technical and there is plenty of help available, and also help with costs.

The Switchover Help Scheme is a scheme run by the BBC and offers the provision of easy-to-use digital equipment, home delivery and installation and 12 months' aftercare and a free helpline. The scheme is open to people who are aged 75 or over, or receive certain disability allowances, or are registered blind or partially sighted. Visit their website to see if you are eligible.

You can also ask family or friends to help, or contact local voluntary agencies such as Age UK Kensington and Chelsea or Citizens Advice.

Getting more help

Digital UK is the independent, not-for-profit organisation leading the process of digital TV switchover in the UK. Their website contains a wealth of very useful information.