28 November 2006

Go digital!

Ferguson FDT500Thanks to Hong-Lin, a reader in the School of Law, I've got a Ferguson FDT500, a set top box with which I can watch digital terrestrial television through the Freeview service.

I wonder if everything was connected properly when she made her telly go digital, as although she said the box, original given by her brother-in-law, might have ceased to function, it is now working in good order in my room. There was no hassle when I set up the system: I am living within the Freeview coverage area, my landlady's rooftop aerial works perfectly, and, above all, the digital box has a harmonious relationship with the 20-inch analogue TV Pedro gave me this February when he went back to Portugal.

I came to know about digital TV two years ago when I did seminar teaching on the undergraduate course 'Media Impacts and Influences' in my department. The digital technology allows more TV channels and different interactive and information services to be transmitted in the same amount of space as that used by analogue transmissions. Consequently, switching to digital broadcasting system frees up airwaves for other uses such as mobile TV or high definition TV, and certainly brings more commercial oppotunities.

The UK government have set up a timetable for Digital Switchover, the switch-off of all analogue terrestrial TV broadcasts, and announced that TV services in the UK will go completely digital by 2013.

I don't care about how many channels I receive at the moment as I don't have much time to appreciate all the programmes, but I simply can't ignore the almost ninefold boost in the number of channels after installing the set top box – from only 5 to 44 TV channels, plus 24 radio channels. It reminds me of the days when I was in Taiwan, where about 85% of households subscribe to cable TV service, which usually provides about 100 channels on a fixed fee basis. Most of the time, unless when really into a specific programme, people would first flick through all the channels forward and backward, and then start channel-hopping.

As I'll be back in Taiwan for five weeks and thus be able to practise hopping over different channels with a remote control, I'll be ready to have a good hop after I return to Scotland with Hong-Lin's digital box and Pedro's analogue TV, although there are only 44 channels from Freeview, far less than the number in Taiwan.

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