Thinking Out of the Digibox
By D O'Brien
If you listen at work, watch at home or are involved in writing, producing or marketing the sets or shows for digital radio or television, then you are doing more than your fair share to bugger-up the planet.
DAB has been under development since 1981 and since 1987 has been part of European research project Eureka 147. Contributors to Eureka 147 have included broadcasters, consumer electronics firms, network providers and operators.
Based on their findings, the UK Government is actively promoting the changeover to digital and has announced that the analogue TV signal will be switched-off between 2008 and 2012.
The Government in the UK has not yet made it clear if they intend to enforce a similar changeover to digital radio, but then neither have they made clear the cost implications of the current move.
Ofcom, the independent regulator for the UK communications industries, predicts that the cost to UK households of enforcing the changeover to digital television will be around £572m. Switching-off the existing analogue signal means that every television and video recorder must be connected to a digital receiver to work. Ofcom estimates that necessary upgrades could cost each household £132, based on two television sets and one video recorder (where are they shopping?).
Additional power consumption will also cost households between £2 and £8 extra on their average annual household electricity bill; this is because both digital TVs and radios use 2-4 times more power than analogue versions (since they have to decode and restructure the signal rather than just receive it). This flies in the face of the Government’s Energy White Paper (Department for Trade and Industry, 2003), which set a goal to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 60 per cent by 2050.
Then there is the impact of dumping all that redundant equipment (and the implications that will have on the targets set out under the EC Directive on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE).
So, why the rush to change?
Based on the 2001 census there are around 25 million households in the UK; that would give a combined bill of £3.3 billion for upgrading equipment (based on Ofcom’s figures and not including the spend of those who changeover voluntarily or want higher spec equipment) and an annual electricity bill increase of between £50 and £200 million! The Government will also be able to sell-off the old analogue bandwidth. You can see why some people are very keen on the changeover.
Independent analyst Chris Goodall recently told a House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport select committee that: "For a large fraction of the population, digital terrestrial television represents nothing of benefit whatsoever."
The move to digital TV (and the probable future move to digital radio) is being sold by government as ‘a good thing’ - yet another advance, and there is a tendency to believe that anything new is good per se, but is this really the way forward?
D. O'Brien writes news and articles for both print and web, specialising in environmental and ethical issues.
Through Better Start Here (www.betterstarthere.co.uk) he offers businesses a range of writing, editing and research services.
He is also author of the Earth View blog (earthview.blogspot.com).
This article was posted by D O'Brien