Thursday, 3 March 2011

ASO is coming - and so are the cowboys ...

ASO? Analogue Switch Off, part of the DSO - Digital Switch Over - process which happens in Redbridge next year.

As the ASO/DSO process has moved from area to area around the country, there is evidence to suggest that vast sums of money are being extorted from those most vulnerable - many, but by no means all, elderly - with the veiled threat that they will lose all TV reception if they do not do so.

This example of the kind of thing we can expect comes from Bill Wright, a long established aerial installer 'oop north' and acknowledged expert in the field:

In Yorkshire we have DSO in few months, so all the old people have had a fat and important looking envelope through the letter-box telling them about the help scheme. Although the thing is not worded to cause alarm, it is causing confusion and already the reports of outrageous rip-offs by aerial firms are coming in.

A friend rung me tonight to tell me that his mum and dad had paid £300 for a 'digital aerial', and did I think it was 'reasonable'? I did not, because they live 11 miles from Emley Moor near Barnsley and my memories of the area (I used to fix aerials for Barnsley DER) tell me that you can see the mast from their front door.

Apparently other people in the bungalow complex have also had 'very big' aerials fitted, all by the same local installer. Trading Standards will be informed.

An installer near here has been leafletting all the council bungalows in his village, offering 'digital aerials' at £150. The leaflet does not say that to continue without such an aerial will result in a blank screen at switch-off, but there's a clear implication.

The following happened over the weekend. Having received the fat and important looking envelope two elderly friends of my wife's decided to buy a new TV set. Being old and stubborn they didn't bother to discuss it with anyone. The existing TV set was analogue-only, but perfectly all right. The new TV set arrived and was installed by the delivery man for a fee. Having tuned-in the TV set he demonstrated five channels and said that if they wanted the extra digital channels they would need a new aerial. He then gave them the mobile phone number of an aerial installer and went on his way.

Only then did they ring my wife to ask her what she thought. She told them I'd pop round, which I did. Well, we both did. Little china cups and digestive biscuits...

The new telly was tuned for analogue, but pressing the A/D button gave a message to the effect that the set had never been tuned in. That little squirt from xxxxxxxx must have deliberately done an analogue tune only, so that his mate could go round and sell an aerial. I did the digital install and demonstrated the channels.

Of course the old pair were so wound up they were reluctant to let me escape without replacing the aerial! I had to promise that if they had any problems I would go back and fit a new one, despite the one they had being only two years old. If it hadn't been for the chance that they they were friends with my wife I think they would have shelled out for a totally unnecessary new aerial. They were gagging for it. I wanted to report all this to the head office of the shop, but the old pair pleaded with me not to. Anyway, I now have a nice Sony CRT set sitting in the shed. Any takers?

The government's attitude has always been that rip-offs are 'collateral damage' and are unavoidable. Could you all spread the word about this, warning any vulnerable people you know? It isn't just the elderly; the adult mentally handicapped living independently are also targets.



There is a government help scheme for those aged over 75 but the government's own web site isn't exactly helpful with what must be the smallest print of any web page on the internet!

A 16 page leaflet from Help the Aged, now Age UK, who have recently released an 11 page updated version may still confuse many, who will become prime targets for anybody offering what appears to be an easy way out - at a (substantial) cost.

Nobody in this area who has reasonable reception of the analogue channels but has, so far, resisted the idea of upgrading to digital, should need to spend more than about £20 for a digital set top box and, despite what they might hear, There - Is - No - Such - Thing - As - A - Digital - Aerial, so they won't need one!

If you know any neighbours, friends or relatives who you think might fall into the vulnerable category, now might be the time to broach the subject - before the cowboys start rounding them up!


  1. Before I open my big mouth, I was reading a newspaper article recently and I read about 75 and over not having to pay for their television licence.
    Through chatting to my fellow allotment plotholders I realise that not paying for a tv licence would make a real difference to the finances of quite a few.
    What is the situation, if the well-matured householder has grown-up children still living in the nest?
    ps: I am not in the well-matured section yet!

  2. So long as the named licence holder is 75 or older it does not matter about others residing at the same address. So, Anne, perhaps the moment will come for 'im indoors?

  3. No, Morris, him indoors is still a few years short! (Although he has had to reapply for a driving licence which is not the case for me!)
    Interesting though that there should be one named licence holder for one address and that could make a difference to how much or how little is paid.
    This lovely country is really complicated.

  4. I am indebted to Andy Wade* for the following:

    The help scheme is run by the BBC and the correct link to its website is

    There is a link to this site on the government's web site but I must have missed it amongst all the fine print!

    * Andy is technical director of Proception Ltd who produce a range of high quality distribution equipment.