Friday, June 15, 2007

Buyer Beware: some Digital Recorders won't work in Copeland

Be warned if you live in Copeland and are thinking of buying any TV or recording equipment. Before you spend your hard earned money, make sure you take advice, from someone who really knows what they are talking about, concerning how the Digital switchover in October will affect your new kit.

In four months time, the Whitehaven TV area - which includes most of Copeland Borough - will be the first part of the country where the TV signal goes digital and the existing analogue signal will be switched off. If your TV gets its signal from the Bigrigg transmitter or one of those which rebroadcast the same signal, you will lose the Analogue BBC2 service on 17th October. There will be a month for people to check that they have digital kit that works for the new BBC2 signal, and then the other channels will switch over.

A large area around Millom in the south of Copeland, the St Bees area, and an area around Lowca (including part of Bransty ward) get their TV signal from other transmitters which will not go digital until next year. If you live in any other part of Copeland you are likely to be affected by Digital switchover later this year.

Some people who really ought to know better, such as the Whitehaven local branches of major national chains like Tesco, were still selling televisions this week which do not bear the Digital logo. If you live in the Whitehaven TV area, then within a few months you will not be able to use such televisions without a set-top box (cost about £30.)

And we now learn that several types of digital video recorder (PVR) equipment, which are supposed to be operable after switchover, will not work in Whitehaven. They may function properly in much of the rest of the Border region when those areas follow us by going digital.

The problem was first highlighted by Brooks independent audio and video specialists but Digital UK admit they have been aware of the potential problem for “a long time”.

Among the PVRs that won’t work in Copeland are:

Digifusion/Beko
Thomson DHD4000
Labgear
Triax
Setpal - Daewoo
Dijanan

However, no definitive list has yet been made available.

The technical glitch relates to the 14-day onscreen TV guide offered by some models and Digital UK’s advice is to only buy models that have a seven-day electronic programme guide. Digital UK also say it will only affect a minority of models.

Digital UK say they have spoken to all traders in Whitehaven to make them aware of the situation. However, Brooks say a chain store in the town was selling a model that wouldn’t work as recently as last week.

The Whitehaven News asked why no warning was given to the general public since those buying PVRs online would not be dealing with informed local traders. A Digital UK spokesman replied that they wanted to be clear about the precise nature and extent of the problem before making any announcement. He also said some manufacturers may offer a software upgrade to solve the problem.

Trading Standards advise that if the box doesn’t work customers can take it back to the shop and are within their rights to get a refund. A spokesman said items had to be “fit for purpose” which this clearly wouldn’t be.

He said the responsibility clearly lies with the shop who sells an item of equipment, not the manufacturer or Digital UK, to make sure that it is fit for purpose. He also advised people buying any electrical equipment over £100 to use a credit card as this gave added protection.

After The Whitehaven News contacted Digital UK, the organisation said they would now mail all Copeland homes to highlight the issue. Their spokesman added: “We've worked closely with retailers to make them aware and we're confident that they understand not to sell these boxes in the Copeland area. Our simple advice is that anyone whose box has a 14-day programme guide should return it to their retailer or, failing that, contact the manufacturer of the box.”

Sadly this confidence may have been misplaced. The Whitehaven News sent an undercover reporter into Argos. They have one PVR recorder for sale, which is the Thompson DTI6300-16. The reporter asked the sales assistant whether this item of kit would work locally after the changover and were told that it would. Unfortunately this was wrong: that item of kit has a 14 day programme guide and will not work in the Whitehaven TV area.

Dave Simpson, director at Brooks, said: “Our view at Brooks is still to buy any required boxes in advance of October. We still believe most people haven't done anything about the switchover yet, and the fear is that if left too late, then the availability of digital equipment could be restricted. Also, having boxes installed will allow customers to get used to switching from and to Channel 5 when it’s launched in August, which will hopefully ease the anticipated operational problems when October arrives.”

PVRs, costing from £120 to £250, record on to a hard disc. They offer an on-screen TV guide to enable easy recording of programmes. Some guides show listings for seven days ahead, some for 14 days – it’s those offering 14 day schedules that won’t work in Whitehaven. You should also buy a PVR that has dual-tuners.

Thanks to the Whitehaven News for most of the information in this post.

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