Tuesday, 12 October 2010
Digital switch-over waste and Lessons not learned
What, Freeview? No, sorry.
Thought not. It's hard to believe that 5 years ago when this TV was bought it was impossible to buy a reasonably-priced* integrated digital TV, despite the legislative wheels towards digital switch-over set in motion nearly a decade earlier with the Broadcasting Act 1996.
To be fair it wasn't until 1999 that parliament was informed of the Government's intention to switch off the old analogue signal... Still, this was 6 full years before this particular TV was purchased.
Given the original target switch-over date of 2010 one might have thought that manufacturers might by 2005 be offering a future-proof telly?
Without being over-cynical, why should they? This is their chance to sell two TVs instead of one.
All this is rather ironic as it overlaps with attempts at the European Commission to reduce harmful electronic waste in landfill (WEEE - Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) dating back to 2002.
To add insult to injury the reason we need a new telly is because the Freeview receiver box, purchased at the same time as the TV, fried itself. Knowing a bit about electronics I dissected the device and found a rather old design dating back to the dinosaurs.
The receiver ran hot, even when on standby, due to reliance on an internal inductive transformer as a power source, rather than the more modern and far more efficient "switched mode" power supplies which have been around for a good few years. Manufacturers cutting corners. Yet more waste.
And now we're in danger of repeating past mistakes. Last year two family members bought new cars. Guess how many have integral DAB radios? That's right.
Radio and car manufacturers are continuing as the TV manufacturers did. Not only that, but consumer demand for digital radio is muted by the poor quality of the signal in many areas. Even when a good signal is available, Hi-Fi enthusiasts argue that regulators went for quantity over quality when deciding on the technology to deliver digital radio.
In fact anyone watching football or any other event where many objects move about the screen simultaneously may see that the technology chosen for digital TV isn't that great from a quality perspective, hence the move towards high definition; further equipment upgrades and more electronic waste.
Yes, HD is better than standard definition, but for me HD solves a fundamental problem with Freeview in that not enough bandwidth was allocated for some types of programming - although broadcasters and notably the BBC have taken steps to solve this through various advancements.
The digital switch-over has been and continues to be a wasteful disaster, damaging to the environment and wallet alike.
* - From memory, TV and digi-box combined cost around £110 compared to £240 for cheapest integrated digital TV.