31 July, 2012

Free view TV

Freeview digital TV programmes have been available in NZ for some months. All viewers were given 2 years to upgrade their analogue sets. By the middle of 2014, all analogue broadcasts will be discontinued and broadcasts will be digital only. Digital broadcasts can be received by any TV set, be it digital or analogue. All that is required for conversion to digital, is buying the proper aerial (UHF @$50) and a black-box @$120. We do not need to panic or throw away our older type TV sets.
I have been studying the different types of TV aerials used by my Kiwi neighbours in Hamilton. The most common one is VHF, as shown in the photo on the left.  This was the aerial used for receiving channel 1 and 2 on my 8 year old Panasonic TV which was thick and heavy. I have another smaller Sony TV in the family room which is even older. It came from Miri with the piano and the photo albums in 1996.
For channel 3 reception, a UHF aerial is required. This type is smaller and looks like the bones of a fish with a wire mesh at one end. I did not have this aerial. So, I used a simple indoor aerial for channel 3 over the last few years. I also never bothered subscribing to Sky because it is too expensive @ $90 per month. I do not believe in paying for my TV programmes. It should be free.
Houses with Sky TV subscriptions require a third type of aerial which is round and referred to generally as a satellite disk. This aerial can also receive channel 3 programmes and digital broadcasts if one is already installed on your roof; no need to buy a new aerial at all if you got Sky.
Some satellite disks are very large. They can receive something like 100 TV channels, world wide, including those speaking foreign languages from Russia and Zakaghistan.  Signals are received directly from an overhead satellite orbiting the earth. A computer is included for decoding these signals. This aerial is extremely expensive and large.

I have been thinking of upgrading my home analogue TV sets to digital receivers for more than a year. Last year Dick Smith was selling a conversion kit for Freeview reception for only $170. It included a modem and a small UHF aerial. I was not motivated enough to climb on my roof to install this new aerial, for fear of falling. Also my analogue TV sets were still working perfectly all the time, giving me 6 channels: 1,2,3,4,5 and Prime. I also had a slimline Sony DVD player which allowed me to record programmes directly for later viewing. I was happy with what I had, until very recently.

During the last few years, I have been looking at the digital TV sets being offered in all the shops in Hamilton and was waiting for the price to come down further before buying. Kevin has a digital TV in Brisbane; so did every one else in Kuantan.  Barling has a huge one in Kati-kati. It is time for Christine and I to upgrade our old TV sets. The price of a digital TV is certainly within our reach this year. Last week, Christine and I went for a car ride to Matamata. On the way home we stopped to window shop at Morrinsville. I saw a 50" Sony at Noel Leeming on special at $2999. It was very attractive because Pearl bought one 3 years ago at the same price but smaller, at 42". Fortunately I did not buy because I found another identical one at Noel Leeming, Hamilton for $2599 (manager's special). I bargained and got it down to $2200. I slept on the deal overnight. The next day, I went back to the shop and bought the set!
Put side by side with our old TV, it certainly looked huge! I had some problem connecting the aerial and went back to the shop next day for some help. Initially the man referred me to a technician who charges $160 per visit. I refused to pay this money and asked for the manager. She was very kind and showed me how to use the connectors provided inside the box. I went up the roof, removed the old VHS aerial and installed the smaller one (a universal aerial for all channels) There was still no picture. I went to the shop again. Another man told me that I have to tune the new TV set which came in a box. I did that when I came home by using the auto-tune feature in the menu. It was a very steep learning curve for me because the usual instruction booklet was not provided together with the TV! The next few days, I tried connecting the home theatre system, my stereo sound system and the Kareoke set to the new TV. Christine had an excellent idea to hide all the cables and wires under the rug.

She also had a ridiculous request, asking me to throw away the large Marantz speakers; but my cassette tape player and Kareoke set cannot work without speakers. Women!
However, her idea is applicable if I can merge all my audio/video systems into one using the surround sound home theatre system which has a large boom box which can also make the windows shake if turned up to 35 or more. One thing is for sure, all the Chinese DVD's now playing with surround sound, with high definition pictures, gives a better viewing experience. On Freeview, I discovered that the (+1) channels allows me to view some programmes one hour later. No need to record anything! There is also a button on the remote allowing me to switch back and forth from analogue to digital stations. We enjoyed the CCTV broadcasts in Chinese on 2 separate channels, 28 and 29. Christine enjoyed the news in Mandarin and has begun to follow the Korean movies.

One thing is for sure, we are watching far too much TV this week! Coronation Street has become even more interesting with the train crush, people dying and other sub plots coming to a multiple climax.

This is the new aerial on my roof. It is a universal aerial designed in Holland. I can receive all the Freeview channels and also the analogue channels. In general most Kiwis do not know about aerials because I still see most roofs are cluttered with many different types when only one small aerial is required. If you have Sky, you probably don't even need to buy this universal aerial.
On the left was my old VHS aerial which is now obsolete. I disconnected it from the post on the roof and installed the small aerial last weekend. Total job time on the roof: 10 minutes. To do the same job, I was quoted $140 by a trained Kiwi electrician. In New Zealand, it is very expensive to pick up the phone! DIY (do it yourself) is the only way to go. I got angry when I returned to Noel Leeming the next day and all the help I got from them was a phone number for an electrician. I almost returned the TV set to the shop that day.
I was persistent and demanded to see the manager. She was kind enough to show me how to use the connectors for the coaxial cable. I went up to the roof, removed the VHS aerial and connected the old coaxial cable to my new aerial using the connectors which came in the box. It is working fine now; receiving all channels! Noel Leeming is back in my good books again...


  1. thanks for sharing.

  2. David, this is really funny. I enjoyed reading yr TV drama. lol :)

    1. Jess,
      It was a very steep learning curve for me. One good thing is this. All my friends here have a much smaller digital TV, all around 40". I paid less for my 55"Sony/Bravia because I was the last one to buy and upgrade from analogue :)

  3. Nice pics and interesting story, thank you.
    Please note that your old aerial was a VHF one (not VHS, which is a videotapes format).
    On your two first pics, you show us a VHF "combo" aerial that "combines" both one band I (VHF low band) aerial with very long rods, and one band III (VHF high band) one with small rods. On the side is attached a UHF aerial with its typical "toaster grid" and short "X" rods.
    Obviously you only had a VHF band I aerial, as shown on the pic you took in your garden. It was unable to correctly receive band III and totally out of reach of UHF channels.

    1. Thankyou for the comment. I have corrected the error.


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