Annual report 2010

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Find out more about the UK’s switch to digital television in our review of the year

Explore our online annual report for interviews, key facts and figures on digital television switchover in the year to 31 March 2010

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It is the biggest engineering project in television terms since the network was originally constructed, which started roughly fifty years ago. We are re-engineering over 1000 transmitters over a period of about six years. This involves a variety of engineering activities from, at the one extreme re-building complete 300 metre masts, to dealing with small relay stations which are effectively telegraph poles and it roughly splits out between a hundred, what we call, larger main stations and about a thousand of the smaller relays.

During the course of the engineering works we do our best to minimise the disruption to viewers, however, with a project of this scale it’s impossible not to cause some impacts. This will vary very much from place to place depending on what we are having to do at the local transmitter. In some cases we have actually had to move services onto temporary masts in order to enable the engineering work to take place. Each time we do that it does cause subtle differences to the radiation pattern of the services, so some people will notice differences. Other people will see temporary interruption to the service, short service breaks, but we do do our best to communicate those to people in advance so that they understand that this is part of the normal process.

During the last year, one of the big events was the switchover of the Granada region, which from an engineering perspective was a challenge because of the scale of activity that had to take place all on one night; something like sixty-four transmitters had to be switched over within a period of about twelve hours. Fortunately that went well and a lot of experience was gained from that activity.

Generally speaking, the challenge for us, in working ahead of the switchover programme and preparing the engineering, is the vulnerability to bad weather. We had a couple of bad summers early in the programme, which created a bit of a back-log but fortunately in the last year we have caught up on that and we are on track to complete the programme. However, we did suffer some unexpected problems in Scotland earlier in the year with very deep snow which meant there was a period of four to six weeks where even with four by four wheel drive vehicles, it wasn’t possible to access the sites. But fortunately, that snow’s gone and we’re now back on schedule.

One of the other aspects of the broadcast work stream activity has been the creation, in conjunction with our colleagues at the BBC, of the postcode database which is accessed principally via the Digital UK website but it is also available via the freeview website and other service providers’ websites. This gives the viewer the opportunity to enter their postcode and to get details about their likely experience, both before, during and after switchover. This has proved to be a very valuable tool, evidenced by the fact that since September 2007, when it first started, there have been something like 22 million hits to the postcode database.

Switchover progress

Updates and videos

Read more about switchover across the UK’s regions and nations

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Consumer research

Consumer research

Learn about the legacy of switchover and why viewers love the digital life

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Financial report

Financial report

Digital UK’s financial report for the year to 31 March 2010

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