Dunedin viewers slow to change

Dunedin is dragging the chain in the countdown to digital television.

Otago will be one of the first regions to go digital, but around 11% of Dunedin households had television sets which would no longer work when the analogue signal was abandoned, Freeview general manager Sam Irvine said from Auckland yesterday.

''Dunedin is slightly behind the national take-up, but Dunedin has a large student population and a lot of them are still away. We expect that will quickly change when the students come back,'' Mr Irvine said.

New Zealanders had been ''spending up large'' on televisions and digital receivers in preparation for the digital switchover this year, he said.

''The biggest seller is still TV. A lot of people are taking the opportunity to buy a new TV. It's incredibly cheap to buy a new TV in New Zealand. We're one of the cheapest countries in the world. That's because our high dollar has pushed electronics prices down, there are new retailers competing vigorously in the market and there are new manufacturers entering the market.''

More than 575,000 free-to-air digital TV devices, receivers and digital recorders have sold during the past year. The biggest growth was in ''time-shifted'' viewing, such as Freeview, which was now being used in half of all New Zealand homes, Mr Irvine said. However, it was not necessary to buy a new television set, as most older models could be used with a digital receiver.

''An old TV will give you just as good a picture. In fact, some people prefer the picture on the cathode ray tube TVs,'' Mr Irvine said. The South Island will go completely digital on April 28.

The lower North Island and East Coast follow on September 29 and the rest of the North Island goes digital on December 1.

- nigel.benson@odt.co.nz