Are NZ consumers being duped by retailers as Digital TV comes to town?

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 13-Jun-2011 12:58

Digital TV isn't new to New Zealand - Sky TV began digital broadcasts in the late 90's and Freeview launched in 2007 offering a digital platform for existing Free To Air (FTA) broadcasters using a DVB-S (satellite) platform to offer nationwide coverage to any home with a satellite dish, and in 2008 launched a DVB-T (terrestrial) network that works with a UHF TV aerial and will offer coverage to 87% of the population by the end of July. In September 2012 New Zealand begins what is arguably the most significant change to TV broadcasting in New Zealand since TV broadcasts began in 1960 - the shutdown of these analogue TV broadcasts leaving NZ with a 100% digital broadcast platform. This process is known as Analogue Shut Off (ASO) or Digital Switchover (DSO). By the end of 2013 when this process is complete and all analogue TV broadcasts are discontinued, every TV in the country that is not equipped with an integrated digital tuner for Freeview, an an external Set Top Box (STB) for Freeview, Sky or TelstraClear will be unable to pick up any TV broadcasts. It also means that every VCR or DVD recorder in the country will also be unable to record any TV broadcasts unless connected to an external Freeview, Sky or TelstraClear STB. Despite the dates for switchover being announced earlier this year, an official announcement was made on Friday marking the launch of a new campaign to educate people about this important milestone.

Current statistics show that close to 80% of homes are currently accessing digital TV. What these surveys don't ask however is whether every TV on the premises is currently accessing TV using a digital platform. Somebody who has Sky hooked up to their new 50" Plasma in their lounge is counted in these statistics as being a digital customer, even if the TV in the bedroom is only tuned into an analogue signal. The total number of TV's that are accessing analogue broadcasts is still very significant, and every device that has a tuner in it will require to be replaced or connected to a STB for it to continue working once the analogue broadcasts are shut off. What is readily apparent is that there are a large number of people unaware that analogue TV broadcasts will be shut off, and that their TV's will suddenly be incapable of displaying anything unless they purchase a digital STB for it. While advertising campaigns have started advising of the digital switch over, educating people about the implications of this will take time.

Of great concern to me however, is the behaviour of some of  New Zealand's largest retailers continuing to sell products that do not feature a digital tuner, meaning they will be incapable of functioning in a little over a year without additional cost to the consumers.

Several weeks Harvey Norman had TV advertising for a Visio 19" LCD TV for $249. "Great for the bedroom" boasted the voiceover message. This TV features no integrated Freeview tuner and is only capable of tuning in analogue broadcasts. Anybody buying one of these TV's for their bedroom and relying on analogue broadcasts will find that that once analogue broadcasts cease that their TV will be unusable unless an external STB is connected to it. Harvey Norman aren't the only ones guilty of this -  a quick glance at The Warehouse and DSE mailers show they are also selling a large number of TV's with no integrated digital tuner.

This poses a question - are these retailers blatantly misleading their customers by selling products that will not be able to perform it's primary purpose (watching TV) starting in 15 months time unless the customer spends more money to purchase a STB to allow this TV to continue to operate? I personally think they are.  A quick survey by of these retailers on the weekend inquiring about these products shows that they're doing nothing to educate and inform their customers that the product they're about to purchase will be unusable unless connected to a STB at additional cost to the consumer.

In my opinion every retailer in New Zealand selling a TV or DVD recorder without an integrated Freeview tuner should be forced to display Point of Sale material warning of the limitations of the product, and the same material should also included with the product. Selling a TV or DVD recorder that will in effect be obsolete, without clearly advising customers of this is in my opinion, completely unethical.

So my challenge to retailers - what are you going to do about this? What steps will you take to educate customers? What will you do when a customer brings their Visio TV back in 15 months time and says it no longer works?

If you're a consumer who's recently purchased a TV from one of these retailers that doesn't feature a digital tuner and were unaware that it will require additional hardware and costs to operate in a little over a year, what do you think?

Your thoughts on this issue are welcome.


* Image of switch off dates is from

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Comment by psycik, on 13-Jun-2011 13:48

You should @harveynormannz this and see if they respond.

Comment by Teal, on 13-Jun-2011 14:15

I hope I'm wrong but these retailers might be thinking that the warranty lasts for a year so they still have 3 more months to hawk the older / less future friendly TVs off on us. Slightly off topic now but when I visited a couple of retailers over the Xmas break the salespeople knew virtually nothing of the Digital upgrade which doesn't help matters either. I agree completely that there should be some effort made by the retailer to advise the customer that the TV/DVD they're looking at may soon be obsolete but at the same time I think the consumer should be doing some research of their own, particularly with big-ticket items (which I consider a TV to be). Teal

Comment by Pete, on 13-Jun-2011 20:22

Just a note. Purchased a Visione 24 LCD from Harvey Norman at Northwood in Christchurch. They were flat out, but the salesman questioned me really well on the setup in the house and made it quite clear that this set would not receive digital broadcasts on its own past that 2013 date. I was impressed with this warning, as it was unprompted from me. The TV is for my mother, who uses Sky for all her viewing. Also credit is due to Harvey Norman staff in Ashburton who helped resolve an issue with removing the stand from the set, for wall mounting. Good article - thanks.

Comment by James, on 13-Jun-2011 21:02

Absent warnings such as Pete indicates that HN made, I wonder if the FTA or even the CGA would have any cover on this matter.

Comment by Richard, on 14-Jun-2011 02:13

I hope not, the idea that everyone buys a display inorder to watch broadcast television is clearly false. If the customer ASKED for a screen to watch broadcast TV on, then yes there may be a case. but most people buying a small TV will just walk in, pick up the box, pay and leave. In that case with no salesperson input they should have no case whatsoever. If the display was only able to operate on broadcast TV and nothing else, then there would be a case for needing a warning on the shop display, but the plethora of HDMI and other inputs makes it clear that the broadcast tuner is just a small part of the products feature set.

Comment by trig42, on 14-Jun-2011 09:16

Good points there. I feel it would be prudent for these retailers to at least put in the blurb for these items that they only recieve analogue signals. At least then they have covered themselves from someone coming back under the CGA stating that the set is not fit for purpose in 15 months time.

I suspect that once DSO is very close, there will be the usual people demanding that the government pay for people to switch. I hope the govt does not subsidise the switch, but if Labour win in November, you never know... 

Comment by Mark, on 14-Jun-2011 10:10

No I don't think they are duping customers at all ... the retailers have no control over the future (none of us do), they won't change wording on something that "might" happen .. deadlines move, things change.  You go and buy a car now, are you going to return it in 15 months if oil runs out because it no longer works ?

Author's note by sbiddle, on 14-Jun-2011 10:35


I'm a little confused by your logic. There is no "might" here, analogue broadcasts are shutting down.

Lets put your statement in a proper context - if a car dealer sold you a car when they knew that oil was no longer going to be available in 15 months but didn't tell you this would you be annoyed? I suspect you would be.

Comment by YoungF, on 14-Jun-2011 12:31

In my opinion -- At the very least, if they are selling them as "Television" sets, retailers I feel should make it clear in their marketing material and in their product descriptions whether or not a TV has a Digital Freeview tuner built-in. The Warehouse (among other retailers) at least in the recent past I feel has been particularly lax at this with me having to go up to ask a Sales clark whether or not any of these TV's actually have a built-in Freeview Tuner.

Comment by xpd, on 14-Jun-2011 16:11

1) Need to specify if the TV has a Freeview tuner built in
2) Need to make ppl aware that even if they have a built in tuner, they may still have to buy a DVB-S box due to the DVB-T signal not covering everywhere - such as what has happened to me..... new TV with DVB-T, cant use it. No DVB-T where I am and Im honestly not holding my breath for it either.
3) Educate the sales staff. Friend bought a new LCD recently and got all sorts of crap from the sales guy who obviously knew nothing,

Comment by Robbie steele, on 14-Jun-2011 20:35

*** disclaimer : I work for DSE *** Currently there are only one or two tvs that do not have a DVB-T. The main one is Konka, made by a Chinese group, and as they do not have a digital service there these models do not have a digital tuner. Other models might not list Freeview, but will still have a DVB included. **************

Comment by xpd, on 15-Jun-2011 15:06

@Robbie steele : Whats a DVB ?

Comment by StarBlazer, on 16-Jun-2011 20:08

The TV is only part of the problem - a TV that does not have a built in decoder is not that much of a pain to add an external decoder - you just use the decoder to change channels. 

IMO the problem is selling DVD/HDD recorders that are analogue only.  When the analogue goes off, imagine the pain of having to set the decoder to come on at a particular time/date, then setting the recorder the same and having to watch the channel you are recording. 

This is the part that makes this kind of equipment landfill fodder and why retailers must start advising consumers that the unit will be virtually unusable in 18 months time.

Taking the CGA as an example - goods must be suitable for purpose and for a reasonable amount of time (I'm paraphrasing).  Reasonable life for a DVD/HDD recorder I would expect 2-5 years depending on brand/quality.  Will consumers have a case in 18 months?

I had a quick check in JB-HiFi and DSE yesterday and some of the devices were over $400 - if I was unsuspecting and found this information out in 6-12 months time I would be pretty pissed off that I wasn't warned!

I work in IT and of the few who did know about the switchoff very few realised that their DVD/HDD/VHS units would be affected.  

Comment by Glyn, on 30-Jun-2011 16:41

I agree with StarBlazer... in fact its worse. If you want to record two programs from two different channels in the same night, you need to get up and change the STB over to the other channel. During the day while you are out at work... no longer possible. So even a T.V. with an STB can't shift all your programs to a time you want to watch. So everyone that rushes to buy an STB will still be stumping up again for another one with a HardDrive in it to record programs ? Might be better to have an entertainment PC with digital receiver and recording software in it ?

Comment by Storm41, on 19-Jan-2012 23:40

I disagree somewhat with StarBlazer---programming the dvd-recorder and the Freeview dvb-t is not a big deal for me. The big problem is getting a reliable freeview signal, does everyone else have a freeview signal that's reliable as analogue? As Robbie says basically every TV now has a freeview built in.

sbiddle's profile

Steve Biddle
New Zealand

I'm an engineer who loves building solutions to solve problems.

I also love sharing my views and analysis of the tech world on this blog, along with the odd story about aviation and the travel industry.

My interests and skillset include:

*VoIP (Voice over IP). I work with various brands of hardware and PBX's on a daily basis
  -Asterisk (incl PiaF, FreePBX, Elastix)

  -xDSL deployments

*Structured cabling
  -Home/office cabling
  -Phone & Data

*Computer networking
  -Mikrotik hardware
  -WAN/LAN solutions

*Wireless solutions
  -Motel/Hotel hotspot deployments
  -Outdoor wireless deployments, both small and large scale
  -Temporary wireless deployments
*CCTV solutions
  -Analogue and IP

I'm an #avgeek who loves to travel the world (preferably in seat 1A) and stay in nice hotels.

+My views do no represent my employer. I'm sure they'll be happy to give their own if you ask them.

You can contact me here or by email at