CHOICE guide to digital TV

What will it mean for you?
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01.Digital TV

In its latest announcement about digital TV the Federal Government decreed that analogue TV will be switched off before the end of 2013.

This means your normal analogue TV will go blank if you haven’t invested in a set-top-box by that time.

So, what is digital TV and why have it? 

Video: Digital TV switch - what you need to know.

With broadcasts going digital between now and 2013, Chris Ruggles tells you what you need to know about the DTV switchover.

What is it?

Digital is just another way of transmitting content to your TV. It uses technology that has a few benefits over the analogue system:

  • No interference - It eliminates ghosting and snowy effects caused by interference.
  • Better quality - It can provide very high-quality image and sound (see Standard or high definition?).
  • More channels - Because it’s a more efficient broadcasting mechanism, it allows broadcasters to squeeze more channels into the same space.

How do I get it?

There’s two ways to get digital TV in your living room:

Digital set-top box

The cheapest way to go digital is to keep your current TV (probably a traditional cathode ray tube, CRT) and attach a digital set-top box between it and your aerial. In most cases a new aerial isn’t needed, but some older aerials may need replacing.

The set-top box acts as the tuner (the part that receives the signal for all the channels) for your TV set and you use its remote to change channels, etc. They cost anything from around $50 to $200, depending on the brand and whether you choose a standard (SD) or high-definition (HD) model (see Standard or high definition?).

You can also get set-top boxes with a built in hard drive or DVD writer (see Recording digital TV).

Integrated digital TV

The more expensive option is to buy an integrated digital TV set (IDTV). Basically, this is just a TV with a digital set-top box/tuner built-in. The advantage is that you don’t have the extra remote and menu system to learn and it’s all-in-one, so there’s less clutter.

What can I get now?

As well as the digital broadcast of all the analogue free-to-air channels, you’ll also get a few extras if you go digital now:

  • ABC 2 – offers a mix of new and archival content as well as ABC main channel repeats. ABC3 is mainly children's programs and currently has limited viewing times. ABC24 is based around news and current affairs.
  • SBS World News Channels – broadcasts foreign language content.
  • Extra channels such as community TV in some regions, Australian Christian Channel, Parliament channel and a home shopping channel.
  • Four digital radio channels – ABC’s Dig Radio and Dig Jazz and two SBS multilingual radio services.
  • ONE HD and ONE SD which are produced by the TEN Network and are predominantly sports channels.
  • 7TWO is largely movies and kids programs, 7MATE is a bit blokey and in HD only at present. 
  • Nine's GO! is aimed at a younger audience. GEM is supposedly for the more sophisticated viewer and in HD only at present.


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