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When Digital Television is not Digital

For a long time I thought we were lucky enough to have the new fangled, all singing and dancing, much vaunted digital television.  No silly little set top box for us, or so I thought.

I was wrong.  Just after Christmas our digital television provider Fastweb stopped transmitting Italy’s state RAI television channels.  The transmission ceased in readiness for the completion of the transition from analogue to digital television in Italy, I learned.

This was the point when I realized that the digital television service we had watched for a good few years was not as digital as I thought it was.

Losing RAI was bad news, as the only other half-decent television channels which remained were something called channel 7, which rarely shows anything worth watching, and Berlusconi’s free-to-air three: Rete 4, Italia 1 and Channel 5.

We wanted RAI back, and, thankfully, we got our way.

So why wasn’t our supposedly digital television not actually digital?  If you are curious, read on.

Both my other half and myself were rather miffed to have lost RAI, as this left us with Mediaset which tends only to transmit the news according to Berlusconi.  The rest of the Mediaset programming is fine if, a) you are a Berlusconi disciple, b) Big Brother is your thing c) you like American TV crime series such as CSI.  Otherwise it’s better to surf the web or watch a DVD.

I admit that we both like CSI, but very little of the rest, and one gets the feeling that Berlusconi’s TV channels are little more than thinly disguised propaganda.  After all, if you were the owner of national television channels and you just happened to be elected to the position of Prime Minister, you would probably feel tempted to tinker just a little to ensure that your television channels showed you in a good light, now wouldn’t you?  Only natural really.

IPTV is not DTV?

When we moved in to our current apartment we were a little surprised to find that there was no centralized television aerial.  Most apartment blocks in Italy have them, but not all.  Yes, I know we should have checked more carefully, but we saw a cable, and assumed it was OK.  It was not.

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Stop reading, start speaking

Stop translating in your head and start speaking Italian for real with the only audio course that prompt you to speak.

No aerial, no problem, we thought, as we knew that the Fastweb internet provider offered a television service as part of one of its connection packages.

One shiny little box of tricks later, and we had all the usual television channels plus a few other goodies too.  That was a few years ago, and the cable television on offer then was a little basic.  Now, it is much better.

We thought what we had was digital television, but no, despite the television signal being transmitted via snazzy optical fibre cable, what we had was not digital TV.

What we have had for all these years is IPTV – Internet Protocol television, and IPTV, even though it sounds digital, it is obviously not digital enough.

To get real ‘digital television’, we would need a little decoder, plus a connection to an external television antenna.

Actually, Italy’s digital TV is not 100% digital as the signal is being transmitted via antennas, just like the old analogue signals.  This means that signal quality will not always be excellent, which contradicts what the politicians have been saying in their attempts to convince everyone that DTV is a good thing.


For me, digital television is not really that digital if it cannot be transmitted digitally.  Like IPTV.

Or am I just being nitpicky?  Or did someone who runs Italy quite like the idea of taking the RAI channels off air for a while?  Then at least pesky programs such as AnnoZero and Report would not be seen by so many people.  Nooo, perish the thought.

Nobody would be that Machiavellian, now would they?

I’ve yet to understand just why politicians are so keen on getting everybody over to so-called digital television.

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