TV in the UK – Your Questions Answered

On our UK TV FAQ, we answer questions asked by visitors to this site.

If your question isn’t answered here, please post it to our forum, and we’ll try to help.

 

General questions

Switching to Digital?The UK’s network of analogue transmitters was phased out between 2007 and October 2012 as part of the Digital Switchover progrnmme. The benefits of going digital include a whole stack of extra TV and radio channels on your TV, and a number of other technical improvements, such as on-screen programme guides, and interactive services.
High Definition?HD, High Definition TV, started appearing in the UK in 2006, with Sky Digital leading the way. To get these higher-definition broadcasts, you’ll need an HD-Ready TV set, and a high-definition receiver.

For more on this subject, see our HDTV page

TV in 3D?Is 3D TV a fad, or the next big thing? In 2009, the hype on 3D TV started again, when Sky announced plans to launch a 3D service. The Sky 3D channel launched in 2010.

If you’re looking for information on 3D TV and what’s next, see our dedicated 3D TV in the UK page.

LCD / LED and PlasmaWhen it comes to TV screens, the terms LCD, Plasma and LED are often used, but often confusing:

LCD and Plasma are the two leading types of TV screen, both being improvements over the original bulky Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) type of screen.

The terms LED TV causes confusion, as this refers to LCD screens, where LED (light emitting diodes) are used to backlight the LCD screen. If you see the terms LED TV, it actually means LED-backlit LCD screen. More on this confusion: LCD or LED TV?

If you’re looking for information on 3D TV and what’s next, see our dedicated 3D TV in the UK page.

TV listingsGet DigiGuideLooking for a replacement to TV listings magazine? Try a powerful TV listings program for your PC, mobile phone or pocket computer. Listings are uploaded over the Internet. The advantages are: searchable, cheap, greater listings, configurable.

See our dedicated TV Guides page

Video to PC?If you’re looking to copy a video tape, or TV programmes to computer format, you’ll need a TV card or USB TV box. A range of basic cards are available from Maplin, but we recommend you take a look at the range of products from Hauppauge first. If you need a professional video capture card, then take a look at the range on offer at PC World.

PC TV cards come in a variety of forms. Some go inside your PC case (these are normally PCI cards), and some are external boxes that plug into your PC’s USB port.

Taking the most basic situation, let’s assume you want to copy an extract from a video tape to an AVI file format on a computer, use a co-ax fly lead to go from the aerial out of the video, into the co-ax socket input of the PC TV card. From the PC card software, you’ll need to tune in the PC card to the signal from the video, so that you can get a clear picture. Then, use the video capture software supplied with the card to capture the video you want.

For more on watching and recording TV on your PC, see our TV on your PC page.

Set-top box dialupIf you have a Sky, Sky+ or TiVo set-top box, your subscription probably means that the box needs to dial a phone number on a regular basis, to check your subscription, or send Sky the details of any pay-per-view movies you’ve watched. Here’s what we know:

  • Sky phone numbers seems to vary, but some boxes dial 0808 1001817
  • TiVo uses a standard built-in analogue data modem to dial the number 0808 1050005.

For more, see our Satellite, TiVo, or PVR (hard-disc recorder) pages

Should I go widescreen?More and more films on digital TV are transmitted in widescreen, and most new DVD releases are widescreen. To take full advantage of movies, opting for widescreen may be the way forward. Widescreen has an aspect ratio (width vs height) of 16:9 … the same as a cinema screen, whereas a standard TV has a ratio of 4:3. If you watch a widescreen film on a standard TV, you’ll have to watch in “letterbox” mode (with black above and below the picture). For examples of what happens to a widescreen picture on a standard 4:3 ratio TV, and more information on this, see the Widescreen Advocacy site.
Digital Radio?I can get digital radio on my TV… is this the same as DAB? See our Radio FAQ

 

TV on a mobile Looking for TV and DAB radio stations on a mobile phone? Ahh – you’ll be wanting the Lobster 700TV

 

Channel questionsOccasionally, we’re asked for information on selected channels:

Q. Can I get E4? Answer: E4 is currently available on Sky, Freeview and Virgin Media cable.

Q. What is UK Drama, and is it on Freeview? Answer: UKTV Drama rebranded to Alibi in October 2008. It is currently available on Sky and Virgin Media. It is not one of the Freeview channels. Click for details

To see which digital TV service carries certain channels, see our Channel Comparison page

For programme listing guides, see our TV Listings section.

Free Sky channelsSome channels are broadcast free-to-view on Sky Digital. For the line-up, Free-to-air channel list.

Note that ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 stop being free-to-view in the second half of 2003. This is because the BBC have announced that they’ve moved away from Sky’s encryption system, to save themselves several million pounds. ITV and Channels 4 and 5 were benefiting from the BBC’s use of Sky, but are apparently unwilling to pay to be on Sky. For the story, click here.

If you’re looking to get BBC, ITV, Channels 4 & 5, plus other free-to-view services, consider the digital TV package from Freeview. No subscription, and no ties, for around 40 TV channels and 25 channels of radio. See our Freeview page.

TV in other roomsif you’re looking to get digital TV in other rooms of your house, we’ve got some information on this on our TV in other rooms page. You may also find our accessories page of use, for splitters, boosters and wireless senders.

 

Matsui Wn03For help with setup issues and the service menu on the Matsui 28 Wn03 TV, see our Solutions page

 

Broken Remote Control?See our TV Remote Control section
Lost Remote Control?If you’re looking for a replacement remote control for your TV, video recorder, Freeview, Cable TV or satellite TV set top box, take a look at the range of replacement remote controls available from Partmaster.

If they don’t carry a replacement for your lost of broken remote control, you could also consider a universal controller, that can replace multiple remote control devices. Our favourite is the Kameleon range – but there’s a wide range of generic remote control replacements available from Argos or Maplin
Electronics
.

For more, see our TV Remote Control page.

Need a manual?If you’re looking for a manual for your TV or set-top box, here are some things to try:

  • Check the manufacturer’s website – they may well make a downloadable version available via their website. A quick search on Google should reveal the manufacturer’s website address
  • Contact the manufacturer direct – if they have a spares department, they may well be able to supply a manual as a spare part (they will normally charge for this)
  • Take a look on E-Bay… you quite often find that user guides and manuals are sold for a very small fee
  • Try asking in our forum – a user may be prepared to part with their manual, or make a copy of the appropriate section.
  • Finally… do you really need the manual? If you’re having a problem with one or two features, why not ask for help in our forum… hopefully a user will be able to guide you through the steps.
InteractiveBBC InteractiveIn the context of digital TV, many TV channel providers supply digital interactive content that is available via the red button on your digital remote control. This content may include: access to pages of digital teletext, games, additional information on programmes, online voting, shopping and competitions. BBC digital channels contain a fair amount of interactive content, including the ability to access video and text news headlines – pictured to the right is their news multiscreen – looped video versions of their news headlines, supported with text. Some interactive elements can be truly interactive, meaning that you can use a phone line connected to your box to connect in real-time, perhaps to vote, enter a competition or play a game. This tends to apply to Sky only (Sky boxes are required to have a phone line, so all have built in modems, most Freeview boxes don’t).

 

Your own station We sometimes receive enquiries from people looking for information on how to set up their own TV station, or how to get a TV channel set up in the UK.

The answer obviously depends on the type of station – satellite, cable or digital terrestrial, but in brief, those wishing to run a TV station will need to have 1) a licence to broadcast, and 2) a technical way of broadcasting.

For licensing, you need to contact the regulator OfCom, and for transmission, you need to contact the carrier (bSkyb, Virgin Media or the Freeview multiplex owner), to negotiate a contract for carriage on their transmission system.

For more information, first off take a look at the OfCom TV licensing guidelines website for some general guidance and information on the requirements and how to apply for a licence. Then, then make contact with your preferred carrier.

UK TV outside the UK We quite often get messages to this site from ex-pats looking to find out how to get UK TV from outside of the UK – There’s not an easy answer, but there are a few possible options:

  • In Europe? If you’re in the footprint of the Astra satellite, you may be able to get the Sky channels (especially the free-to-view channels). See the entry on our Sky FAQ page for more.
  • In the US? – BBC America may be your best bet – they are jointly owned by Discovery and the BBC, and import a number of UK shows. Also, check out the PBS channels that have a lot of British stuff.
  • Internet TV – A small number of TV channels are available as a streaming video service over the Internet – See our dedicated page on this: Internet TV
  • Slingbox – Here’s a clever one. If you have a friend (or office) in the UK with a broadband connection, you could get them to buy and connect a Slingbox to their TV aerial and Broadband connection – you can then watch TV that’s streamed from this box from any Internet-enabled PC in the world. A clever solution. More on our Slingbox page.

For more on watching British TV overseas, see our UK TV Abroad page.

Why is there a time lag on digital TV?One of the slightly annoying things you may notice about digital TV, is that there’s a slight time-delay with digital transmissions – sometimes up to a couple of seconds. This can be a pain if you are watching a digital service with an analogue service in another room.

For details on the cause, see our Digital Time lag page.

Digital TeletextTeletext digital textWe’re quite often asked about Teletext on Digital TV. With Freeview and Sky Digital, you don’t get the old blocky text that you’d be used to on the analogue TV service.
The new digital TV services use digital teletext, which gives better quality text, supports pictures, and can be used with interactive services.

  • On Freeview, the digital teletext services appear as TV channels – ITV Teletext is on channel 9, with the BBCi Interactive text service on 105 and Channel 4 Fourtext on 104.
  • On Sky, use the red button on your remote on a channel that supports interactive services

BBC's old CeefaxSome people still want to access the old-style analogue teletext service, but find that they can’t after getting Sky TV or Freeview. You can still access the older Ceefax and Teletext pages… just not via your set-top box.
If you want to view the old analogue teletext, you’ll need to switch the TV to analogue TV (e.g. Channel 1 for BBC1, as opposed to the AV input for the feed from the digibox). As long as you’re viewing TV via the aerial input, and not via the SCART / AV input, pressing the text button on one of the five main TV channels, should get you back to the old-style Ceefax and Teletext services.

 

Freeview questions

How do I get Freeview?
  1. Coverage – To receive Freeview, you must be in a Freeview coverage area.
    To check this, enter your postcode at digitaluk.co.uk/postcodechecker.
    Even if you are in an area reported as having good signal, local obstructions, or the quality of your TV aerial may make a difference to your reception. See our guidance on this below.
  2. Box – If you are in coverage, you’ll need to get a free-to-air set-top box. Boxes cost from under £30 and can be bought from high-street stores such as Currys.
    Shopping online for a set-top box is often the best route, as there are some good bargains to be had.
  3. Connect – Plug your new Freeview set-top box to your existing TV aerial.
    Connect another lead into your TV’s SCART socket, and you should be ready to go. Note that in some cases, your TV aerial may not be suitable and may need upgrading.
  4. Setup – Follow the instructions supplied with the set-top box, and scan for available Freeview channels.

We recommend We recommend: YouView from BT, for a Freeview recorder plus on-demand TV shows

For more on Freeview, see our New to Freeview page

Will I be able to receive Freeview?We receive quite a few emails on this one, but there’s no guaranteed answer to this. First off, check that you are in a Freeview coverage area via the postcode checker at www.digitaluk.co.uk.
Even if you are in an area reported as having good signal, local obstructions, or the quality of your TV aerial may make a difference to your reception. You can also use the clickable map at Wolfbane site to get information on your nearest transmitter.It’s fairly safe to assume that if you get a fairly strong signal on the main 5 channels from the same transmitter as a transmitter that offers a digital TV signal, receiving Freeview shouldn’t be
a problem in most cases. However, the only true way to find out 100% is to either borrow a friend’s Freeview box to try it out, or contact a TV aerial company and ask them to perform a signal test using your aerial. As below, aerial upgrades and boosters can help to improve a weak signal if needed.
Freeview on Sky?A common question we see is “Can I get Freeview on Sky?”. Freeview is the name for the free-to-view service that can be received over a standard TV aerial – this was previously known as onDigital and itvDigital. Freeview can’t be received via a satellite dish, but almost all of the channels on Freeview are also available on the Sky Satellite platform.

Do Freeview and Sky support subtitles?Freeview subtitles on the GX210Both Sky and Freeview support subtitles (where the TV channel showing a programme chooses to supply a programme’s subtitles). Most (if not all) of the set-top boxes for Freeview and Sky support subtitles.Many Freeview boxes have a dedicated Subtitles button on the remote. The Sky remote control doesn’t, but subtitles can be enabled via the “Services” button
(then select “System setup”). Consult your set-top box manual for details of how to enable subtitles.

 

For Freeview
help and advice, see our Freeview F.A.Q
page

 

Reception problems

Problems with Freeview?For help with Freeview signal and interference, see our Reception page
Video / box output issuesA common issue. Set-top boxes and video recorders have two types of output – SCART socket and RF/UHF/Co-ax output, and there are important differences.

  • RF/Co-ax: If connecting to a TV set via a co-ax lead, you need to tune one of your TV presets into the channel that the video or set-top box ‘modulates’ (more details below). With this type of connection, picture quality is worse than SCART, and you won’t get stereo sound
  • SCART lead. If using a SCART cable, you don’t need to do this, as the picture can be seen via the TV’s AV or Line In feed. Using SCART gives you better picture quality, widescreen switching and stereo

Each ordinary TV signal (BBC1, BBC2, etc) is on a dedicated channel (a number between 21 and 68), and you need to tune your TV preset buttons into each channel. If a set-top box or video has a co-ax output, it’s capable of generating its own channel (between 21 and 68), which you have to tune a TV preset into. Your box/video is doing something known as ‘modulating’ on a channel of its own.

Box generating interference? – When using a set-top box or a video, it’s not uncommon to find that when it’s switched on, you lose one or more of the channels that you have tuned in on standard TV. A common example would be switching on the video causes you to lose channel 5, or turning on a set-top box means you can’t see the video. This means that your video or set-top box is ‘modulating’ on the same channel number as another channel, and the clash generates interference. This was common with video recorders when Channel 5 started… many video recorders had to be retuned from channel 37, so channel 5 didn’t interfere with the video signal and vice-versa.

If you are experiencing interference because of this, you’ll need to change the channel that the box broadcasts on. You’ll find details of how to do this in the manual (look for RF modulated output channel, or UHF channel – something like that).

Note that this is only a problem if you’re trying to watch via standard TV channels, as opposed to the SCART (which doesn’t use a TV channel). If you try the following, you should see the benefit of SCART.

  1. Switch your TV to line input (the AV switch – Av2 perhaps?). Play a video to make sure you can see the video recorder on the AV channel.
  2. Stop the tape, and change the video input (as if you’re recording a certain channel) into Av2. Your video should now be looking for a signal from the Freeview box. As your video is tuned into Freeview, and your TV can see the video output, you should see Freeview without any interference.
What is a wideband / high-gain aerial?UK TV is transmitted in a UHF band between 21 and 68. TV aerials are designed to receive certain bands. The bands are:

  • Group A – Channels 21-37
  • Group B – Channels 35-53
  • Group C/D – Channels 48-68
  • Group E – Channels 35-68
  • Group K – Channels 21-48
  • Group W – Channels 21-68

A Wideband aerial is optimised to receive TV channels anywhere in the UK TV band. In areas of weak signal, a wideband aerial may not be as effective as a high-gain aerial designed for the specific band you’re trying to receive (a mast-head amplifier may be needed to help boost the signal). If you’re looking to upgrade aerial, getting a good quality wideband aerial is usually the thing to do, so that if additional services (such as Freeview) appear elsewhere in the band, you’ll be able to get them.

High gain aerials can be used to reduce certain types of problem – including weak signal, interference and ghosting. They do this by getting the most out of the signal. For best results, high gain aerials aren’t  wideband, and should be pointed directly at the target transmitter. For a wide range of aerials, connectors and amplifiers, go to www.maplin.co.uk

Red squares on FreeviewSeeing a red square (and no picture) on a Freeview set-top box indicates no signal. It may be that you are outside the Freeview coverage area, that your aerial lead is not connected correctly, or that you need an aerial upgrade or a signal booster to allow you to pull in signals. See our Freeview FAQ

 

Connection problems

If you’re having problems connecting your box, try our TV Setup advisor

 

My TV doesn’t have a SCART socket!Most DVD recorders, games consoles and set-top-boxes send their outputs via a SCART socket.
So, what do you do if your TV doesn’t have a SCART socket? For a TV that only has a standard aerial co-ax socket, you need to find a way of converting the SCART output into a standard TV signal – this is something called ‘modulating‘ the signal, so that you TV can tune into the signal in the same way as you would tune in an ordinary
TV channel. Some equipment has a built-in modulator, or you can get a separate modulator. Here are some options:

  1. Philex FV400Look for equipment that has an RF modulated output – this will allow you to use a standard aerial cable to plug into your existing TV co-ax socket. Once connected, you can then tune one of spare channels on your TV into the channel being used (i.e. ‘modulated’) by the Freeview box, in the same way as you would tune in an ordinary TV signal. We recommend the Icecrypt T5000 – a small Freeview receiver that doesn’t require a SCART lead
  2. You may be able to connect your equipment via something that has a modulator. Most old video recorders and some DVD recorders have built-in modulators, so you can connect via something
    that does support SCART – For example, if you have a video recorder that has a SCART socket, you can connect the equipment into the video SCART, switch the video recorder to the SCART input (AV/Ext), and watch on the TV’s video channel.
  3. UHF ModulatorYou can make use of something called a UHF modulator – this is a box that converts SCART signals to a signal that can connect into your TV’s “aerial in” socket. Plug a SCART socket in one end of the box, and a flylead to your TV in the other, and all should be well. You then tune your TV into the channel that the UHF modulator generates. We use a Universal Modulator from Maplin Electronics with excellent results. We’ve also found a cheaper modulator at TVcables.

For more help on connecting to a TV without a SCART, see our No SCART page.

What’s a co-ax?Co-ax plugA co-ax plug is the kind you’d expect to find on the end of the wire that comes from your TV aerial. For a selection of co-ax leads, converters and extensions, go to the Maplin
website.
What’s a SCART?SCART plugPictured to the right is a standard SCART plug, which is used to connect TV, video and DVD equipment.

SCART plugs have 21 pins, and carry video, audio and switching signals.

If you need a SCART lead, SCART adapter or a SCART switcher, head over to the Maplin website.

I can’t tune my video into FreeviewSee the answer in our Recording Freeview Guide
I’m having problems connecting my set-top boxSuch a common question, we’ve created a page dedicated to this topic. Please see our Connection PageConnection help: Try our interactive Connection advisor
Too few SCART socketsSwitch Box from ArgosIf you’re trying something complex like trying to connect a DVD, Freeview set-top-box and a video recorder into a TV set with a single SCART socket, you may soon find you’ve run out of sockets – and what you’ll been needing is a SCART switch box. These let you plug multiple inputs into one box, connect the box to your TV (or video), and then select which SCART feed you want to watch. Here are a few of the box types available:Splitters, multi-way SCART sockets, SCART leads and adapters are available from Maplin and Argos. Top choice for us is the Bluedelta Smart-SCART

For more on SCART sockets, switches and splitters, see our SCART Switcher page

If your question isn’t answered here, please visit our forum, and we’ll try to help.

 

2 comments

  • Paul

    Does any one know if 4:3 ratio television sets are being made today (2014), or if they will ever make a comeback? Not everyone appreciates the widesceen. Perhaps manufacturers could make both then we could more to choose from.

  • Patrick Mahoney

    Have just the talk talk, engineer who has changed my router, also have had two different aerials fitted at a cost that was steep, any way the engineer said that my reception was far to low at 34% strength, would some one please help me as to the best aerial booster to buy.
    Many thanks
    Patrick

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