Published 5 August 2011.

Freeview confusion

Many people are confused by the recent advertising on TV about the looming "change to digital". I have had dozens of people ask me why they have to change and the same question has been asked of my peers in the industry.

The TV ads do indeed use phrases like 'NZ TV is going digital' and this is the main source of confusion, because NZ has had digital TV for many years. A lot of people know this and have concluded from the ads that NZ is going to change the 'type' of digital and therefore, they would have to buy new hardware. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I don't know who made those ads or whether they have been commissioned by Freeview themselves, or by the Ministry of Culture and Heritage, who are the government agency managing the analogue TV switch-off. They run the Going Digital website

Those hideous ads

Leaving aside questions over the wisdom of pitching the TV ads at 6 year-olds, I believe I know why they have made this mistake. Early on, the term for 'analogue switch-off' was simply known within the industry as ASO. The collective wisdom of the parties involved thought this had a negative connotation, so invented the term DSO, which means digital switch-over. It is the same thing. The ad makers thought something that had 'switch-over' in it was still too hard, so turned DSO into "NZ TV is going digital". The fact that SKY has been digital since its satellite service started in 1998 and that Freeview digital services have been going since 2006 seems to have escaped them. Overall, the country already has 80% of viewers watching broadcast TV transmitted in a digital form. The ads are targeting the other 20% of the population, or rather, their children.

Who has to take some action

Your choices

Should you need to do something, you have a choice. You can get SKY, TelstraClear or Freeview. The first two require monthly subscriptions to be paid. TelstraClear is only available in parts of Wellington, Christchurch and Kapiti. If you don't want to pay monthly subscriptions for TV, you need to get Freeview.

There are two choices for Freeview. Most people will be in range of a UHF service, so by purchasing a UHF aerial and a Freeview TV (or a FreeviewHD receiver) you will be on digital. Yay! About 15% of NZ homes will not be in range of a UHF transmission, so then you will need satellite Freeview. To get that, you are best to ring up a Freeview installer. They will provide a satellite dish and a receiver and they will install for you. Easy! To help decide whether you can get UHF or will need satellite, the Going Digital website will assist.

I should add that anyone, anywhere can get the Freeview satellite service, but you might prefer UHF terrestrial because it has high-definition plus you won't need an ugly dish, but of course you have to be in range of a UHF transmission.

Axino-tech Consulting & Services , August 2011.