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Digital switchover could leave Sussex viewers with fewer channels

Thursday, August 11th 2011 by Nigel Adie
Digital switchover 'could limit availability of channels in Sussex'

The work could reduce the number of available Freeview channels to less than 20.

Viewers in Sussex could see a reduction in the number of channels they can access once the region undergoes the switchover to digital TV.

The work is due to kick off in West Sussex in February and March 2012, with East Sussex set to follow suit in May and June. Ahead of these dates, Digital UK - the body tasked with leading the process - has admitted the project could result in some people receiving just a third of the stations they are currently able to watch.

At present, some people in communities such as East Preston can tune in to more than 60 channels, but this total could be reduced to less than 20 as householders are forced to rely on smaller masts that transmit a diminished service, reports the Argus.

Digital UK explained some locations rely on so-called relay transmitters to serve them with TV signals. These are designed to boost the reception offered by the main masts, such as the ones at Rowridge on the Isle of Wight and Whitehawk Hill in Brighton.

They currently only broadcast the analogue versions of BBC One and Two, plus ITV1 and Channel 4, but will be upgraded to offer around 16 Freeview channels during the switchover process.

East Sussex resident Sheila Foyle said she had been told by Digital UK that she could be affected by a loss of channels.

"They explained that if they push the signal too much then it starts to interfere with users in France," she remarked. "I'm more unhappy about the lack of communication that is available which is only there if you search for it."

A spokesman from Digital UK noted some householders could opt for alternative digital TV solutions, such as purchasing a Freesat set-top box or signing up for pay TV services such as BT Vision, Sky and Virgin Media.

However, Bill Taylor, regional manager for Meridian at Digital UK, moved to reassure viewers by insisting: "Far from reducing the number of channels available, switchover will see massive improvements in Freeview coverage and viewing choice. No one should see a reduction in the number of channels available.

"Homes already able to access Freeview channels will continue to be able to receive them and in many cases will enjoy improved picture quality as signal strengths will be boosted.

"Those currently in digital black spots will see their terrestrial line-up increase from four to around 15 channels. Anyone with questions should visit our website (digitaluk.co.uk) or call our advice line (08456 50 50 50)." 

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